We have a digital oral/rectal thermometer, but is difficult for our toddler to be still long enough to get an accurate reading (sometimes it seems to to take several minutes before hearing the confirmation beep). We have another baby on the way and would like to get a better instrument.

Is there a thermometer that can accurately and quickly indicate the temp of a baby and toddler?

  • Some people run above the average temperature. Some run below. Why not just use the back of your hand to decide if it is too hot or cold
    – Ed Heal
    Aug 27, 2015 at 20:32

8 Answers 8


If your thermometer takes 60-90 seconds, it's definitely time to consider a new thermometer! There is a wide variation in times that oral/rectal thermometers take to read. You can get quick read oral/rectal digital thermometers that will read the temperature in as little as 8 seconds. Old fashioned mercury ones are quite slow comparatively.

The American Academy of Pediatrics official stance is that rectal temperature is the most accurate for children under three, so it is a good idea to have a quick read thermometer for only rectal use for those times when you are concerned about "is that fever high enough I should take my child to the emergency room". Quick read will be really helpful compared to your slow-read one when you're trying to pin them still enough to get a reading at all.

However, the rest of the time for screening purposes, before getting out the rectal thermometer, using a thermometer that is more pleasant/faster/etc may be preferable, and (because of cross-contaminaton) you should never use the same thermometer for both oral and rectal temperatures anyway.

For a screening thermometer, there are many choices in addition to a quick read digital thermometer. There are temporal artery thermometers that you swipe across the forehead that read the temperature in about 6 seconds, and ear thermometers that read the temperature in about 3 seconds, as well as slow but more accurate pacifier thermometers for babies that read in about 90 seconds.

Ear thermometers do have to positioned facing the right direction to work, and may give false highs if your child has an ear infection, but are so fast and easy you can take the temperature several times should you be concerned you might not have positioned it right, and are apparently accurate enough that even our usual urgent care facility prefers to take their screening temperatures using the ear thermometer. Used correctly they're usually consistent, but may vary per operator. We like our ear thermometer, but some models are also less good for babies under three months.

Temporal Artery/Forehead Thermometer - Non-invasive, can be done even while baby is sleeping, fairly quick. But they're generally expensive. And they're less likely to be accurate or consistent than an oral/rectal temperature. Slightly slower than an ear thermometer, but the low invasiveness level may make it more tolerable.

Armpit thermometer - Many oral/rectal thermometers can also take armpit temperatures. But it is less accurate again as a measuring technique. But for screening purposes, it is an option that can be considered.

So, in short, there are many choices, but the first priority to have on hand should be a quick-reading rectal thermometer, however, if you can afford multiple thermometers, you may want a second quick-reading thermometer that is a more pleasant to use, despite its lower accuracy. The price varies significantly between types and brands of thermometers, and price is not a guarantee of accuracy. Consumer reports has done tests to determine which specific brand(s) are most accurate/fastest/easiest/etc. however, one must be a subscriber to see the results.

  • +1 It makes sense to have two thermometers; one for a quick check and then, if required, another one for accuracy. Jun 14, 2012 at 21:42

We purchased Braun Thermoscan Ear Thermometer with ExacTemp Technology when our second one came along. This thermometer is pretty fast, and I usually have the temperature before my toddler figures out what is going on.

  • I have the same one and it works pretty well. Its fast but reasonably accurate as well.
    – Grzenio
    Jun 13, 2012 at 12:58
  • yes, us too, speed and ease (and accuracy!) of reading is paramount with children, and this works a treat Jun 14, 2012 at 20:42

We had a multi-kit that gave us the ability to do rectal, ear, or oral and while it worked just fine, it was a bit of a pain. Additionally keeping track of what the rectal and ear temperatures mean in relation to the oral temperature that we're typically used to was a REAL pain.

Eventually we picked up one of the Temporal Thermometer (which is the type of thermometer our Pediatrician uses, incidentally) off of Amazon and we love it. Easy, quick temperature, just make sure their forehead is dryish, as sweat can interfere with the reading, and swipe across the forehead a few times and take the average and your good to go.

Don't get wrapped up in EXACT temperature, whether the kid is 99.2 or 99.6 isn't really that big of deal, if you know they are in that range you know enough to act appropriately.


My pediatrician no longer recommends taking temperature rectally due to the risk of injury.

Similar to a prior commenter, the thermometer doesn't have to be uber-accurate. You basically need to know if they have a temperature, or have a temperature that requires emergency care. Both of those fall in a range, so being off by a degree won't end the world. Err on the side of caution if your child is on the edge of the range.



We have one of those thermometers that you brush across the forehead, and it's fantastic. The kids think it's neat, it only takes a couple of seconds, it could be used if they were asleep, and it's so easy that you can take several readings and compare them.

I think they are properly called "temporal artery thermometers" and this is one which looks like what we have (though no endorsement express or implied, etc., etc.): http://www.exergen.com/medical/TAT/tatconsumerpage.htm


Don't stress over getting to accurate a reading. at the end of the day, the actual temperature of the child does not matter that much. What you really need for diagnosis is an indication of whether or not they running a temperature. The exact degree of the temperature does not give an further information.

Remember that temperature is not the only indicator useful in determining what action is required.

If you are concerned, I can recommend talking to your doctor about the heuristics they use for diagnosing issues.


We also bought a contactless ear-and-forehead thermometer, but its results vary with nearly 1½ degrees Celsius, making it essentially useless. The digital rectal thermometer consistently provides exact (=believable) results.

We have discussed investing in a much more expensive ear thermometer but I'm not convinced it would be trustworthy.

Only the medical-grade devices are really good, but they of course cost 15 times that of household equipment.

Ask your local pharmacy for specific product recommendations.


I want to second Swati's answer above ( https://parenting.stackexchange.com/a/5261/2760 ). As I can't comment here yet, I post this as a separate answer.

We bought the exact same thermometer a while ago and it works great: It's quick, non-invasive, and accurate. Our kids (1,5 and 4,5 years old) like it: they call it "ear-beep" ;-).

A tip for measuring with ear thermometers: Always measure both ears. It helps avoiding botched measurements (too little contact, too short); also, our children have usually slightly different temperatures at each ear.

One more tip: Do not buy a cheap ear thermometer: they often are very inaccurate. Also, if you have used another thermometer for some time now, do some cross-checking to get a feeling if the new thermometer shows higher/lower values (and by how much it differs).

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