(MayoClinic.com) Choosing the thermometer that's best for your family can be confusing. Here's what you need to know about the most common thermometers.
Regular digital thermometers, which use electronic heat sensors to record body temperature, can be used in the rectum, mouth or armpit. The most accurate way to take a child's temperature is to use a digital thermometer, either rectally or orally. Rectal temperatures provide the best readings for infants, especially those 3 months or younger as well as children up to age 3. If you use another type of thermometer to take a young child's temperature and you're in doubt about the results, take a rectal temperature. For older children and adults, oral readings are usually accurate — as long as the mouth is closed while the thermometer is in place. Armpit readings tend to be less accurate than rectal and oral readings.
Digital ear thermometers, also called tympanic thermometers, use an infrared ray to measure the temperature inside the ear canal.
If your child uses a pacifier, you may want to try a digital pacifier thermometer. Your child simply sucks on the pacifier until the peak temperature is recorded.
Temporal artery thermometers use an infrared scanner to measure the temperature of the temporal artery in the forehead.
Temperature strips contain liquid crystals that react to heat. Simply apply a temperature strip to the forehead, and the strip will register body temperature by changing color.
Once a staple in most medicine cabinets, mercury thermometers use mercury encased in glass to measure body temperature. Mercury thermometers can record temperatures from the mouth, armpit or rectum — but they're no longer recommended because they can break and allow mercury to vaporize and be inhaled. If you have a mercury thermometer, consider replacing it. But don't throw a mercury thermometer in the trash. Contact your local trash collection program to see if there's a hazardous waste site in your area.
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