Types of Baby Thermometers
When shopping for a baby thermometer, consider the following types available on the market:
- Digital Thermometer
- Pacifier Thermometer
- Ear Thermometers
- Temporal Artery Thermometers
Digital thermometers are like glass mercury thermometers, only new and improved. These don't require you to shake the mercury down, they cut the length of time it takes to get a good reading and usually signal with an alarm when the temperature is measured. Plus, you don't have to worry about your digital thermometer breaking and spilling hazardous mercury.
Digital thermometers can be used to take rectal and auxiliary (under arm) temperature readings in infants, and oral temps when your child is old enough to put the thermometer safely in his mouth. When you take your baby's rectal temperature with a digital thermometer, and you do it properly, you will get an accurate reading, which is why your child's temperature will most likely be taken this way at your doctor's office and at the hospital.
Giving a baby a pacifier is usually a breeze, which makes a pacifier thermometer a logical alternative for getting a temperature reading hassle free. These are usually made with the thermometer inside the nipple of the pacifier, with a digital screen on the front to show the temperature reading. However, according to Dr. Charles Shubin, director of pediatrics at Mercy Medical Center Family Care in Baltimore, Maryland, these aren't always accurate because many don't come equipped with alarm signals that tell parents when the reading is done and whether or not the thermometer has been in place long enough to get an accurate temperature. After all, pacifiers tend to slip out of busy little mouths.
Also called tympanic or aural thermometers, ear thermometers often use infrared sensors to gauge body temperature, and they usually work quickly. However, ear thermometers have not proven to be accurate, and temperature readings may vary. Again, for toddlers and older children, a small degree of inaccuracy may not be that important. But for new babies accuracy is critical, so although sticking a thermometer in your baby's ear for a few seconds is definitely easier than the rectal method, it may not be the safest way to gauge your baby's body temperature.
Temporal Artery Thermometers
The latest member of the thermometer family is the temporal artery thermometer. This device gauges body temperature non-invasively with a scan of the forehead. They are so gentle they can be used on a sleeping baby.
"Several studies have demonstrated the temporal artery thermometer to be at least as accurate as rectal temperature," says Marybeth Pompei, a chief clinical scientist at Exergen Corporation. "However, a study conducted by pediatricians from Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital found in a study of infants 0 to 12 months that not only was it as accurate as rectal temperature, but when the infant's temperature is rapidly changing, the temporal artery thermometer was in fact better than rectal because it identified the rapid change approximately an hour to an hour and a half sooner than rectal temperature identified the change."
The Importance of Accuracy
Accuracy is critical for new babies because a fever may signify an infection capable of overwhelming their system and causing serious problems. In babies less than 2 months old, a rectal temperature of greater than 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit needs a doctor's attention, Dr. Shubin says. This is why accuracy in infant temperature readings is so important.
Make sure you learn how to properly use the thermometer you buy, because with kids in the house it will get plenty of use!