Good digital thermometer for adults?
December 10, 2020 10:51 AM   Subscribe

Do you have a digital medical thermometer for adults (not infants) that you recommend?

During a covid scare this week, I stumbled to the medicine cabinet to use my digital thermometer, which was way too frustrating to use when you're not feeling well and panicking.

I have a cheap ($8) drugstore one that is too finicky (too slow, I keep accidentally setting it to celsius) so I'm willing to pay for a high-end one that is accurate, easy to use, and very readable.

I've seen the recommendations from the Wirecutter blog, but I'm overwhelmed by oral vs ear vs forehead, and I'm hoping for something that you've used personally.
posted by bluecore to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We've had a Braun ear thermometer for years, and it has worked reliably.
posted by primethyme at 11:06 AM on December 10, 2020 [3 favorites]

I use my favorite food thermometer. The namebrand that chefs use is a therapen Mk4, but I use the cheaper thermopop by the same company.

My wife says I shouldn't use a meat thermometer on people, but it's extremely accurate (tested with bottled water), and well, "we're made out of meat!"

The best part about high quality meat thermometers is that it reads almost instantly to a high degree of accuracy, and you can use it for grilling too!
posted by bbqturtle at 11:09 AM on December 10, 2020 [2 favorites]

We have, use, and like, this Vicks one (which, apparently, you can currently get a deal on if you get two). That would be my recommendation for an adult thermometer. It's inexpensive, but good -- easy to use and (as far as I can tell) quite accurate.

If you really want an ear one, we have and use this one for our kids and it's definitely good, but I always just use the Vicks one as an oral thermometer for myself.
posted by Betelgeuse at 11:17 AM on December 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

Technically I think a rectal thermometer is most accurate, but after that comes oral. I have a Kinsa smart thermometer and I love it--it tracks my temperature and other symptoms day-to-day in the app if I want it to, but it works fine without the app as a regular thermometer. My results are super consistent and you can opt in to sharing your results to help them track potential infection surges by temperature data. They do have an ear version as well but I haven't tried it.
posted by assenav at 11:20 AM on December 10, 2020

I have a Kinsa, which I like, but I do think it reads consistently about 0.3-0.5 degrees higher than other digital thermometers. Like at doctors offices and with my other digital thermometers I'm always in the 97.5-98 range, and with the Kinsa I'm more like 98.4-98.8. That being said I like the Kinsa tracking, and the measurements seem consistent.

I mean, generally, when you're thinking about fever, you're thinking about difference from your baseline, not from some abstract human standard temperature, so for me the Kinsa works fine.
posted by mercredi at 11:42 AM on December 10, 2020

I've had very good luck buying whatever has the fastest listed response time. If the package doesn't say what the time is, or it's a long time, like 30 seconds, it will fail within 10 uses (we got a lot of these at baby showers). If it's under 10 seconds it'll last a while. If it's 2 seconds, you've got a winner. We have one that has been in use for over a decade.
posted by wnissen at 12:34 PM on December 10, 2020

I recently purchased a $20 contactless forehead thermometer on Amazon. It’s probably not the best thing ever but it’s nearly instant, and easy to use (hold over forehead, press button). It’s contactless aside from holding it. My wife and I share it, but we both wash frequently and share lots of other surfaces, so I don’t feel that there’s much reason to fuss about sanitizing before every use, which means I feel okay using it for daily surveillance. I’m not sure more accuracy would help here — it agrees with my oral thermometer and I’m comfortable it would let me know if I had a fever. If I saw an elevated temp, I’d probably switch to monitoring with a better thermometer, but I think this is working for us..
posted by Alterscape at 1:02 PM on December 10, 2020

We've done fine with the fast-results oral ones from Walmart in the $5-10 range. For us adults, it pretty much agrees with the Braun ear thermometer we got for the granddaughter. However, I, too, just purchased one of the on-sale-for-half-off-for-black-Friday forehead scanners... and so far, at least, it concurs with the other thermometers, so I'm content with that for now.

Thing is, I tend to run about a degree lower than average. So me knowing that about myself is important, because I start FEELING like I have a fever at about 99. This can lead to frustration at times, because a doctor or nurse that is unfamiliar with me or doesn't trust me to KNOW this about myself might well shrug it off as in the normal range. I get up to between 100-100.4, and somewhere in there is when chills kick in.

So... get to know your normal temps, especially on the thermometers you're most likely to use.
posted by stormyteal at 2:05 PM on December 10, 2020

I have read that 98.6 is no longer the standard as "normal temperature." From WebMD "But the reality is that a "normal" body temperature can fall within a wide range, from 97 F to 99 F. It’s usually lower in the morning and goes up during the day. It peaks in the late afternoon or evening, sometimes by as much as 1 or 2 degrees.

The 98.6 F standard dates to the mid-1800s. German doctor Carl Wunderlich measured the armpit temperatures of about 25,000 people and came up with an average of 98.6 F.

Newer research suggests that the number has since gone down. In a recent review, scientists looked at temperature records from three periods between 1860 and 2017. The average oral temperature slowly fell by about 1 degree to 97.5 F. A person’s age, gender, or weight didn’t make a difference, nor did the time of day."
posted by a humble nudibranch at 2:59 PM on December 10, 2020

I use a braun thermoscan 5 ear thermometer as an adult, works well. Quick and seems accurate. More accurate than oral/under arm from what I can tell. Note you need disposable tips in order to use it, I reuse since it's just me, but you will want extras to swap amongst multiple people, packs should be cheap online. (But it is more plastic waste).

I don't believe the forehead ones need disposable tips.
posted by TheAdamist at 7:18 PM on December 10, 2020

Wirecutter apparently doesn't like it, but I've been very happy with my Withings thermometer for the last few years. It's seems at least as accurate as a generic drugstore digital thermometer, which is good enough for me. Things I specifically like about it:

It syncs to an app that shows you a log of temperature readings, including separating out readings for different people. It's totally usable without the app, but for me it's really convenient if I'm trying to track whether a fever is going up or down. I don't have to try to remember readings with my fever brain, or remember to write anything down. It will also show green/yellow/red dots next to each reading to tell you how dangerous the fever is based on the age of the person the reading it linked to.

It's very quick and non-intrusive, and isn't affected by eating or drinking. It's not uncommon for me to have a cough along with a fever, or to want to drink tea to soothe a sore throat. Both of those make oral read thermometers more of a pain, but aren't an issue at all with a quick swipe along the forehead. I can also easily take my partner's temperature if they're sick without having to wake them up.

Some of the other forehead thermometers (at least a few years ago when I was shopping) required a pretty specific distance to read accurately, but that can be hard to get right. This one has a soft silicone cup that sets the distance for you.
posted by duien at 3:02 PM on December 11, 2020

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