Best Baby Thermometer of 2021
The Braun ThermoScan is an ear location infrared thermometer with a tip cap and disposable covers. This device fits nicely in hand, has an easy to use interface and simple tip cover ejection that is hands-free. We like that this thermometer has fewer restrictions than competing infrared options, and it feels like a higher quality construction than most of the other infrared options in this review. The Braun comes with 2 AA Duracell batteries already installed.
This thermometer style requires ear pulling to get a straight shot down the ear canal to the eardrum. If your little one has an ear infection or is ear sensitive, this could cause pain or result in a fight. Also, as with similar technology, there are several environmental factors you must control to acquire an accurate reading. We worry parents will forget the requirements or choose not to follow them as they aren't the most convenient. Not following instructions will likely lead to inaccurate readings according to the user manual and our testing. Overall, given the high number of infrared thermometers on the market and the fact that all have similar requirements, we think this option is the highest quality option in this review with an easy to use design. Most families will be happy with this baby and kids' thermometer.
The Digital Forehead and Ear Thermometer is an infrared technology thermometer with both forehead and inner ear reading capabilities. We like that this product has dual modes, so you have options depending on your child's illness, and both methods are easy to use. This thermometer shares an instruction guide with two other options in this review, giving us the impression they all come from the same manufacturer. It comes with 2 AAA batteries ready to install.
This baby and kids thermometer does not come with ear covers, nor does it sell them, so you'll need to clean the ear tip after every use. This technology type also involves meeting several requirements before taking temperatures to ensure accuracy, so we encourage parents to read the instructions and tips before every use. For the price, we think this is one of the easiest to use options in the bunch. We think parents will appreciate the ability to choose between ear or forehead methodology, making it a wallet-friendly option for most families.
It is near impossible to find a more accurate thermometer than the Vicks Speed Read. This thermometer works orally, rectally, or under the armpit. In our tests, this option provided the best and most consistently accurate readings in the group, and we felt the most confident that the readings reflected the health of the test child. Unlike infrared technology, this thermometer gives you the child's actual temperature as opposed to the ambient heat around the child. This difference in technology is likely why many pediatricians require that temperatures for babies, especially infants under six months, only be taken using this type of thermometer (usually rectally). This baby and kids thermometer is super easy to use, and we love the giant backlit digital display that is easy to read in any lighting.
This thermometer requires more patience than the competition as you may need to wait a few seconds for a final accurate reading. Our oral tests were just a couple of seconds or less, but the armpit and rectal temperatures took longer. You'll also need to keep this thermometer ultra-clean and consider buying two, one for oral and one for the "other place," to avoid contamination. However, the price is friendly enough to buy multiples. Overall, we think that sometimes simple and old-fashioned is the way to go. This thermometer had the competition beat for consistent accuracy with the fewest number of limitations or environmental requirements. We think this is something parents will appreciate. Even if you want the convenience of a no-contact product, we recommend the Vicks as a good backup option to double-check readings if you are on the fence about your child's well-being or need for care.
The iHealth thermometer has a fancy look that will remind you of Apple products, but it isn't. It feels sturdy and has a nicer overall quality than some of the competition. It is easy to use with a single button, is a no-contact design, and takes regular batteries most homes have on hand.
Unfortunately, this model suffers from the same limitations and potential for inaccuracies as all of the infrared thermometers, which makes us worry about parents following directions. However, if you follow the instructions, plan ahead, and have some patience to wait, then the iHealth is a quality option most parents can master.
The Mildsix Forehead Thermometer is a forehead only infrared thermometer. This thermometer is easy to use, has a late digital readout, and requires no-contact making it great for sleeping babies you don't want to disturb. It takes everyday batteries and feels good in the hand. The design allows you to easily see the reading while on the child's forehead without tilting.
This thermometer feels sort of flimsy and lightweight, unlike some of the more sturdy competition in this review. It also comes with the same concerns about following directions and the potential for inaccurate readings if parents ignore/don't read the tips and warnings. If you don't mind waiting to take a temperature and you want an easy to read and use product with a large display, then this forehead only thermometer is a definite contender for you.
The Goodbaby is similar in design with the identical user manual as the iProven. This infrared thermometer can work on the forehead or in the ear and comes with 2 AAA batteries ready for installation. We like that parents have options for taking the temperature, and the device was easy to use during our testing.
The ear mode for any infrared thermometer requires pulling on the ear slightly to get a straight shot to the eardrum. This process could cause discomfort if your baby has an ear infection, so parents should use caution. Like other products with infrared technology, there is a wide range of restrictions and limitations that could influence accuracy, so we caution parents to take a good look at the instructions and tips for accurate results. This baby and kids thermometer is about average in the group of products we tested. While the readings were as precise as any other of its infrared brethren, and we like the dual-mode potential, we think some options in this review feel higher-quality in comparison.
The iProven Digital Thermometer shares some commonalities with others in this lineup, including design and user manual. It offers the ability to read temperatures via forehead or eardrum, and the user interface is simple and straightforward. We like the dual-mode versatility, and the accuracy during testing was good when we followed all of the tips. This thermometer comes with batteries and a cloth carry bag.
While the dual-mode is useful, the ear measurement requires pulling on the ear, which could cause pain if an infection is brewing. Also, the quality feels about average compared to some of the more durable feeling competitors in this review. Last, like other infrared options, the iProven requires strict adherence to a list of tips to ensure accurate readings. We encourage parents to read these tips to receive the critical information required to monitor temperatures accurately.
The LPOW is a gun-style thermometer that is easy to grip and point. It feels nice in hand and has a pull trigger action. This thermometer has a large, backlit, digital display and allows for no-contact temperature taking, which can be useful with sleeping children.
Unfortunately, this thermometer is complicated and has more buttons than any other in the review. While you may never use these buttons, it is still overwhelming compared to the single button competition. This thermometer also seems to have the most limitations and restrictions on how and when you can take the temperature for an accurate reading. With tips that include being in the same room with the thermometer to not eating before use, we worry that the opportunity for inaccurate readings is great with unpredictable babies who can often be on the move or generating significant energy being upset and crying. These actions could influence the final temperature reading. We think most parents will be misled by potential inaccuracies that could result in inaction when a child needs help or overreaction when they might be within normal limits. These issues make the LPOW a product we rank lower than the competition we reviewed.
Why You Should Trust Us
The thermometer review is led by
Wendy Schmitz, Senior Review Editor and mother of 2. Wendy's history includes six years of testing baby gear and using a variety of thermometer types and brands as her youngest son had a chronic illness as an infant. Because of this, Wendy takes thermometers seriously as she understands the importance of having a tool you can rely on when your baby's health is in question. Wendy tested each product in the lineup for ease of use, accuracy, and quality to determine what matters and which options are the best.
Analysis and Test Results
We bought and performed side-by-side testing for all of the thermometers in this review. Each option was considered a stand-alone contender and compared to the other products in the review.
Ease of Use
A great thermometer should be easy to use for you and your little one. If it isn't easy to operate or hold, it isn't likely to offer accurate results. If it causes discomfort or takes too long, it could be a struggle with younger babies who may struggle to hold still. We test each competitor for how easy it is to take the temperature, how simple the user interface is, and whether or not the process is likely to cause discomfort for your baby or result in an upset. Ideally, most parents want to take a temperature swiftly without disturbing their baby— no reason to wake a sleeping child who might be feeling yucky and already having trouble sleeping.
As many of the thermometers in this lineup have quick-start guides and more in-depth manuals, we strongly recommend parents read the entire manual cover-to-cover to ensure you have all of the information, restrictions, and tips required to ensure accurate readings. We were surprised by much of what we read and feel the important information parents need is shockingly hidden deep in the manual instead of being presented initially. You must follow all of the tips to ensure accurate readings.
Newer technology has seen a rise in thermometers that never need to touch a person to do their job, more or less. Alternatively, others work with a moment in the ear or swipe across the forehead, something many children will sleep right through. Long gone are the days of rectal only temperature taking (whew!). However, your pediatrician may demand a rectal temperature if your little one is on the edge of the potential need for medical intervention or is under 8 months old. For this reason, you should stock two different types of thermometers to cover your bases (more on this under Accuracy below).
The Braun ThermoScan has an ergonomic shape with only two buttons to manage, and one is the on/off button. While it comes with a book of information rivaled only by 80s style VCR instructions, the Braun is simple to use with a minimal number of child-involved steps and a short duration for taking the temperature. The Vicks thermometer is also easy to use with only one step, but it isn't easy for little ones who will need to hold still or keep a thermometer under their tongue or other places until a readout is achieved (less than 2-5 seconds in our tests). This thermometer works in oral, rectal, or under the arm locations, and all require patience on your child's part, which may not be in the cards with a sick and fussy baby. However, as many pediatricians require rectal temperatures for infants under six to eight months, you both may need to suffer a little no matter what.
The LPOW is arguably the most challenging and has a longer learning curve as there are multiple buttons and loads of restrictions to remember. We worry if you only use this sporadically that you'll forget how to do it from time to time. The instruction booklet is in English only but not written by a native speaker, making it challenging to follow. The lack of illustrations compounds the problem. The instructions include time limits between readings, the timing for how long the person needs to be in the room where the temperature is taken, the time between readings, and environment restrictions. These strict guidelines (shared by most of the infrared thermometers) result from the technology and its ability to get an accurate temperature without being influenced by outside sources. Still, we suspect this is all too much for harried parents and sick babies making it better suited to adults or older children. Also, even at its greatest distance, you still need to be less than 2 inches from your child's forehead, so we don't see how this is a significant win for parents.
Accuracy is critical for temperature taking, especially for babies under six months, where one degree can make the difference between a doctor's call and a hospital visit. For older children, this may be less crucial. Still, you need to be able to rely on your thermometer to be accurate consistently every time. In our testing, we discovered that the majority of the competition's infrared technology is fraught with the potential for inaccurate readings.
Because "normal" temperatures vary from person to person, experts recommend that each family member have their temperature taken multiple times a day for a few days when they feel healthy to determine a baseline of normal average temperatures for them. That way, if they become ill, it will be much easier to determine if they have an elevated temperature as opposed to a higher temperature than the average population, but that could still be normal for them. We recommend you write down the average temperatures for everyone in your family and keep this information with your thermometer for easy and quick reference.
After much research and consideration, we feel it is best to say that if you are trying to decide whether to send a little one to school, an infrared thermometer will likely give you the confidence you need to decide. However, if you are trying to determine if your child needs medical care, we think it is best to rely on an oral/rectal thermometer like the Vicks Speed Read for accurate readings. At BabyGearLab, we recommend parents listen to their gut. If you feel there is something wrong with your child, we suggest you get them professional help even if the reading on your thermometer shows a temperature within normal limits.
Many of the thermometers in this lineup are infrared technology. While this is a commonplace technology and allows for the creation of contactless or limited contact temperature taking, it is not without its problems. The potential for inaccurate readings is higher with infrared than a traditional thermometer. In our testing, we discovered (after reading each user manual) that there are many stipulations, restrictions, and instructions you need to adhere to to ensure accurate readings. These strict guidelines could be difficult or impossible to stick to if your baby is sick. We want parents to be aware of the restrictions before putting all their eggs in the infrared convenience basket. While we love the idea of simple and straightforward thermometers, we worry this technology could be misleading and result in sick children being left untreated.
For example, some (but not all) of the instructions for these products include the following:
- The thermometer and person should be in the same room for 20-30 min (thermometer dependant) before taking readings.
- The forehead should be cleaned and hair removed 20-30 min before taking the temperature
- A person should not eat or drink 30 min before taking their temperature
- A person should not have their temperature taken if they've just moved from a location of higher or lower temperatures than the room where the temperature is taken
- Temperatures will not be accurate if a person has been physically active in the last 30 min
- Cellphones should not be used in the same room as the thermometer
- The thermometer should not be used near microwaves or other sources of possible interference (possibly baby monitors)
- The thermometer should not be used on any area pressed against another surface or covered in the last 30 minutes by items, including hats, pillows, and headrests, etc.
We recommend that parents keep a traditional thermometer like the Vicks oral thermometer on hand as a secondary device if they have any concerns about the infrared thermometer accuracy. We also suggest storing your thermometer in your baby's nursery/child's room, as this is likely a place where you will commonly be taking your little one's temperature. As such, perhaps you will be able to forgo the 30 minutes in the same room wait time if your little one has been in their room 30 minutes before using the thermometer.
The thermometers were all accurate to one another and the oral thermometer when used according to the directions and tips. Unfortunately, many of the infrared thermometers' directions are convoluted and include a significant amount of restrictions, and require ideal circumstances that most parents are likely unaware of or will forget, even if they read the instructions on first use. As a result, we easily produced a variety of inaccurate readings from most of the competition, simply by using the thermometers in a way we think most parents naturally will. For example, we stored some of the thermometers in a bathroom overnight and then took them to an air-conditioned room to take a child's temperature the next morning. The temperature was 0.5-2 degrees different than the oral thermometer result of the same child at the same time. This discrepancy is likely because we broke the thermometer rule being in the same room as the child for 30 minutes before use, something almost all of the thermometers in this lineup suggest to ensure an accurate reading. We also used them in a room with an air conditioner, something many of the user manuals recommended against. However, we believe this will occur in real life, along with a heater or fan use. Two degrees of inaccuracy is the difference between a healthy child and a doctor's appointment, or an appointment and the ER. As a result of our testing, in the same way we believe the average parent will use the baby and kids' thermometers, we feel it is best to have an oral/rectal thermometer to double-check your infrared readings if your little one is on the cusp of a fever. Should the infrared thermometer provide information that feels inaccurate, you can take a second reading with the oral/rectal thermometer for a more reliable, accurate result. This method could prove critical when deciding if your child should go to school or stay home.
The ear-location competition typically offers more accurate readings than contactless options, as did the forehead swipe method in our tests. However, an oral thermometer is the one solution we believe is the most accurate every time, as it is less influenced by environmental circumstances outside of what is happening in the body. The Braun Thermoscan was the most reliable of the infrared in our tests and had the shortest wait time in its instructions of only 20 minutes in the same room with your child. On the downside, you need to slightly pull the ear down to get a straight reading on the eardrum, which could be disruptive or cause pain if your little one is suffering from an ear infection. However, because getting an accurate reading is critical, we'll take a brief moment of pain over a false reading any day. Selecting a combination of forehead and oral thermometers is arguably one of the best solutions to ensure accurate readings.
Parenthood has unforeseeable events. Some of these include the middle of the night unexpected illness and the need for an accurate thermometer. Whether your baby is fighting chronic ear infections or has a superior immune system that rarely gets sick, you'll need to keep a baby or kid's thermometer close-at-hand for emergencies or quick checks before heading to school. Because infrared technology is fraught with limitations and potential for inaccuracies, we think it is best to consider a double prong approach of combining an infrared thermometer for easy readings with less disruption and an oral/rectal thermometer for more accurate information that is less influenced by outside sources. We believe there are useful, accurate, and economical products in this review of top competitors, and you can use our test results to find the right option or options for your family.
— Wendy Schmitz