Best thermometers

First Aid & Treatment

Although 98.6 degrees is considered the “normal” average body temperature, your temperature can fluctuate slightly throughout the day. Anything above 100 degrees, however, is regarded as a fever by most doctors.

BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details.

Which thermometer is best?

These days, you should not take a suspected fever lightly. To adequately address a high temperature and prevent a possible illness from spreading, many people are looking for the best thermometers to use at home before scheduling a trip to the doctor’s office.

With so many different types of thermometers on the market, it’s understandable to feel a little overwhelmed. That said, if you want a reliable, no-contact thermometer that delivers readings fast, check out the HoMedics Non-Contact Infrared Thermometer

What to know before you buy a thermometer

Types of thermometers

There are quite a few different thermometers to consider, from traditional glass and mercury models to advanced no-contact devices. 

  • Digital stick thermometers: These standard devices are affordable and versatile since they’re able to take your temperature orally, rectally or under the armpit. One drawback to this thermometer type is the slow reading time, as you’ll sometimes need to hold the device in place for a full minute to capture an accurate temperature reading. 
  • Forehead thermometers: Also known as temporal artery thermometers, these devices can gather a temperature reading from your forehead. They can be somewhat expensive, but these thermometers are extremely accurate and unobtrusive for the patient if properly used. 
  • Ear thermometers: These simple devices measure the temperature of your ear canal. They deliver quick readings with minimally invasive contact, but special circumstances like earwax buildup or a small ear canal could produce inaccurate results. 
  • No-contact thermometers: Just as their name suggests, these high-tech thermometers can accurately read body temperature without any physical contact, making them perfect for dealing with the public. On the other hand, these devices can be expensive and complicated to operate, which is perhaps why they’re often used more in doctor’s offices than homes. 
  • Glass and mercury thermometers: Perhaps the most traditional and iconic-looking thermometers, glass and mercury tools are rarely used nowadays because they use toxic mercury to provide a relatively inaccurate reading. If you come across a glass and mercury thermometer while shopping, steer clear. The vast majority of physicians do not recommend using these devices to take your temperature. 

Brands

Many thermometers are sold online with phrases like “doctor-approved” in their product details. Still, you should only purchase medical devices from reputable manufacturers with a history of producing high-quality products. 

What to look for in a quality thermometer

Quick readings

The response time of your thermometer is a crucial factor to consider, particularly if you have energetic children. Some advanced models can deliver a reading in a second or two, while more basic devices take 30 seconds to a minute. In most cases, the faster the response time, the better. 

Display

Many thermometers have a backlit LED display that lets you read the temperature results alongside details like a timestamp or a battery life indicator. A backlit display is beneficial if you’re taking someone’s temperature in a dark room. 

Fahrenheit to Celsius

While this feature may not seem particularly useful at first glance, if a thermometer can switch from Fahrenheit to Celsius, it usually means that it was built for international use and is, therefore, more likely to be a solid, reliable device. 

How much you can expect to spend on a thermometer

The cost of a thermometer can vary widely depending on its type and any included features. A simple digital stick thermometer can usually be purchased for around $10-$30, while forehead or no-contact devices can cost around $75-$100 or more. 

Thermometer FAQ

What kind of thermometers do hospitals use?

A. Today, most hospitals use no-contact thermometers to accurately read body temperature because they’re more accurate and sanitary than other types. 

How should I clean my digital stick thermometer?

A. Between each use, wipe down your thermometer with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. 

What’s the best thermometer to buy?

Top thermometer

HoMedics Non-Contact Infrared Thermometer

HoMedics Non-Contact Infrared Thermometer

What you need to know: This no-contact thermometer can produce a reading in only two seconds. 

What you’ll love: Reasonably priced for a no-contact device, this thermometer also comes with a bright backlit display screen that will change colors depending on the results. It can also store up to 50 temperature results with a timestamp to report to doctors. 

What you should consider: The construction is somewhat flimsy, and some users reported issues with customer service. 

Where to buy: Sold by Bed, Bath and Beyond

Top thermometer for the money

The First Years American Red Cross 10-Second Digital Thermometer

The First Years American Red Cross 10-Second Digital Thermometer

What you need to know: Simple and effective, you can use this digital stick thermometer orally, rectally or under the arm. 

What you’ll love: This thermometer is affordable, easy to use and can produce readings in under 10 seconds. This option includes a protective case and a soft flex tip for added comfort. 

What you should consider: A few users received a thermometer that didn’t make a beeping sound once the results were ready. 

Where to buy: Sold by Bed, Bath and Beyond

Worth checking out

The First Years American Red Cross Infrared Forehead Thermometer

The First Years American Red Cross Infrared Forehead Thermometer

What you need to know: Sold by a reputable manufacturer, this reliable forehead thermometer has a large display screen. 

What you’ll love: This forehead thermometer uses infrared technology to produce temperature results almost instantaneously. The large display screen is easy to use in dim environments, and the device also comes with modes for checking bath water and infant formula temperatures. 

What you should consider: Although the readings come fast, it takes a few seconds to turn on this thermometer. 

Where to buy: Sold by Bed, Bath and Beyond

 

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Patrick Farmer writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.