Amid COVID-19, thermometers have become a necessity in most of our households as we continue to monitor our temperature for gatherings, travel, or check-ups. There are thousands of options on the market, and we’ve come a long way from those old-school glass thermometers. So if you’re in the market for a thermometer, which one should you buy? You might be looking for one to take on the go, or a quick and silent thermometer so you can easily take the temperature of children. You may prefer a touch-free thermometer so you can easily clean it and use it on multiple people, or even one which comes with a mobile app that helps you track your temperature over time.
We tested seven thermometers and evaluated them based on their features, ease of use, durability, and overall experience. Here are the ones which have earned a place in your medicine cabinet.
What are the best thermometers?
The overall best thermometer in terms of value for its ease of use and speed is the iHealth No-Touch Forehead Thermometer PT3. It provides results within 1 second and its contact-free design makes it easy to scan a number of people’s temperatures in succession.
The best budget thermometer is the Femometer Digital Thermometer. It’s the cheapest thermometer on our list and is the most similar to the mercury thermometers you may have used in the past. The main drawback is that it can take a while to get your thermometer reading, but the price is worth your patience.
If you’re looking for a family thermometer, the best option is the Kinsa Quickcare. This comes with a companion mobile app which you can use to track the temperature of multiple family members and any symptoms. This is especially great for anyone attending school or work in-person, or for those who need to monitor their symptoms leading up to travel.
The best thermometers you can buy
After extensive testing, the iHealth No-Touch Forehead Thermometer PT3 is our top choice for a no-touch thermometer — it delivers results within a second with an easy-to-read display. This thermometer uses infrared sensors to measure the temperature of the forehead, and it can be used on babies, children, and adults. Just scan the center of someone’s forehead to get a temperature reading, cued by a vibration.
This thermometer is intuitive to use — we didn’t have to rely heavily on the instruction manual. It’s the fastest by far, and it’s the one we’d choose if we needed to quickly take a temperature and report it. This thermometer would be a great choice for restaurants, business owners, and anyone who needs to quickly scan multiple people (just use an alcohol swab to clean it between uses). Because of its sound-free design with no bright lights, it’s also the best option if you want to take a child’s temperature while they’re sleeping. One con is that the thermometer only recalls the last reading, so you’d need to come up with your own system for tracking temperatures over time. Stil, this is the best thermometer for its price point, ease of use, and no-touch design.
The Femometer Digital Thermometer is easy enough to use, and it’s hard to beat at this price point. Simply press the power switch, place it under your tongue, wait for a beep, and your temperature is ready. The thermometer will display “Lo” if the temperature is lower than 89.6° and “Hi” if the temperature is above 107.6°, which leaves a pretty large range for a healthy temperature. This thermometer also has a waterproof tip, making it easy to clean and reuse, and a plastic cover for storage. You can also easily convert from Fahrenheit to Celsius as needed.
The biggest con of the Femometer thermometer is how long it takes to get a reading, especially when compared to other contenders. Our average temperature reading took 57 seconds, which isn’t ideal for use on someone who may not want to keep still. Its LCD screen display is clear enough to read, but there’s no backlight, making it harder to take temperatures in low light.
Overall, this thermometer is great value for money, compact, and easy to use, making it our second pick for the best thermometers.
If you’re looking for a thermometer that can track multiple patients at a time, this is the one for you. The Kinda Quickcare takes an average of 8 seconds to take a reading as claimed, which is a little slower than the iHealth No-Touch Forehead Thermometer, and it can be used in the rectum (rectal), mouth (oral) or armpit (axillary). It’s pretty clever as well — if you take the thermometer out of your mouth too early, the app will tell you to try again.
The Kinsa Quickcare thermometer also pairs with the Kinsa mobile app (opens in new tab) that’s available in the App Store or Google Play, though the app is not required to use the thermometer. We found it very easy to set up on an iPhone, as well as take a temperature, and add any symptoms we may have been feeling. You can add multiple users on the app, and it will create a timeline of all your past temperature readings, and symptoms that can be shared with caregivers or doctors as needed.
Overall, this thermometer is a great choice for anyone who needs to keep track of temperature over time. While some users admitted that they didn’t feel comfortable sharing their health data with the company, Kinda does state that the personally identifiable information of users is not used without their permission. This is a great digital thermometer for us because we appreciate the technology and ease of tracking, but not everyone needs those bells and whistles.
When first using the Vicks Comfortflex, it opens with a self-assessment, similar to taring a scale, and afterwards displays the last temperature reading for two seconds — useful if you want a reference for your progress. The design is compact and reliable, and the probe’s rubber coating makes it more comfortable to use than some of the others on our list. Although it claims to provide results in “as fast as 8 seconds,” it took an average of 15 seconds when we tested it. Still, it was easy to follow the directions, and the vibration cue let us know that the temperature reading was available.
The display is color-coded based on the results (green for no fever, yellow for elevated, and red for high fever), which makes it easy to interpret the results at a glance. You can also recall the last reading using the memory feature and switch from Farenheit to Celsius, which is easy enough once you read the manual. However, other users noted that it was hard to find a battery replacement for this thermometer, which requires a CR1632 3V lithium battery. It may be worth ordering a back-up battery in advance so you can change it out when needed.
Overall, this thermometer is easy to use and great for anyone on the go, which is why it’s one of the best thermometers.
The iProven thermometer can scan the forehead from temple to temple, and it can also take your temperature via the ear using the ear probe with a removable cap. It uses infrared technology to measure radiation from the eardrum or forehead and provides a reading within two seconds. Although it’s not completely contactless like the iHealth thermometer, it still takes readings quickly, which makes it a good choice for babies and children.
The forehead temperature readings were consistent and displayed within a few seconds, however we struggled to get readings with the ear probe at times and had to keep moving it around until it worked. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing since we only got a reading when it was placed properly, but we would have liked more guidance on how to orient it correctly for accurate readings. If the temperature is high, the iProven thermometer beeps three times and flashes a red warning light. Otherwise, it has a green display for a normal temperature. Overall, this is a simple-to-use ear and forehead thermometer that’s worth its price, which is why it’s one of the best thermometers.
The Braun ThermoScan 7 uses infrared technology to quickly take your temperature via the ear, measuring the heat generated by the eardrum and surrounding tissue. It comes with disposable lens filters which should be changed with every use; bear in mind this can quickly mount up the price. It also stores the last nine temperature readings (useful if you’re tracking your temperature over a period of time), which can be accessed by pressing the “Mem” button. The Age Precision feature provides a color-coded reading based on different levels of fever by the selected age group (0-3 months, 3-36 months or 36 months+).
Overall, this thermometer is easy to use — all we had to do was add a lens filter, select the appropriate age range, and scan our ear. The lens filters make it easy to use the same thermometer on the whole family, but we would prefer to use alcohol to clean the probe between uses instead to lower costs and waste. The color display (green, yellow, or red) quickly gave us a sense of whether our temperature was normal or high.
Expect to pay more for this thermometer, both upfront and in terms of replacing the filters, however for that you will get one of the best thermometers, which offers specific guidance for young age ranges.
How we tested the best thermometers
To test each thermometer, we started off by reading through the manual to learn the ins and outs of the design, including how to take temperature, change the reading from Fahrenheit to Celsius, and details on how the readings will be displayed. From here, we took three temperature readings and compared the speed and consistency, assessing the memory recall feature if there was one.
We considered the display, checking for a backlight so the temperature could be easily seen at night or in a dimly lit room. We factored in visual cues as well, such as indicators for a low versus high temperature reading with a color display or warning sound. We timed how long it took to reach the temperature reading, keeping in mind that a fussy child may struggle to hold their breath for a significant period of time if someone took their temperature orally.
These thermometers vary in the location from which they can take temperature, from the ear or forehead (or both) to the mouth, armpit, or rectum. For the latter category, we considered the comfort of the probe. We considered the inclusion of additional nice-to-have features as well like a companion app, age-specific guidance, or the inclusion of lens filters. Lastly, we considered how many readings could be stored, which may be more beneficial if you’re monitoring symptoms over time. However, only the Kinsa thermometer offered a timeline to track the temperatures of multiple people, which is ideal if you live in a large household.
Digital vs infrared
There are two main categories of thermometer: digital-stick and infrared. (The old glass models containing poisonous mercury have been phased out, but you can still find a few containing dyed-red alcohol.)
A digital-stick thermometer is probably what’s been stashed in the back of your medicine cabinet for the last decade. It makes physical contact with the body and can take temperatures from the mouth (oral), the armpit (axillary) or the bottom (rectal).
Digital-stick thermometers are slower to give a temperature reading than their infrared counterparts and have fewer features, but they’re accurate, affordable and work for all ages.
Infrared thermometers measure the heat your body emits, generally via the forehead or ear, by reading infrared light. These give results almost instantaneously and are more comfortable for young kids, though not recommended for newborns. (Readings from a rectal thermometer are more reliable, and with babies, reliable readings are key.)
Infrared thermometers tend to have more features than digital-stick models, which means they’re usually also pricier. Some are specifically designed to read forehead temperatures, others are designed for ear readings, and some can handle both.
How to choose the best thermometer for you
When you’re looking for the best thermometer for your home, consider whose temperature you’ll be taking, as well as which features — fever alerts and app integrations, for example — could make dealing with a sick kid or partner a little bit easier.
Your first step to choosing the best thermometer is to determine which method you prefer for taking temperatures. If you have a newborn — or if you’re looking for an inexpensive option for the adults in your home — a digital stick thermometer that can be used for oral, rectal or axillary readings should do the trick.
If you have toddlers or children who are averse to holding their breath, a forehead, ear or dual-mode device is likely a better fit.
The thermometers which feature in our list fall into three main categories:
Oral thermometer: This list includes a few digital thermometers, which can take temperature orally, rectally, or by armpit. Some thermometers also have a companion mobile app to track temperature over time.
Ear thermometer: Tympanic thermometers are inserted into the ear canal, making it easy to get fast and accurate readings. The one drawback is that they aren’t recommended for use in infants under 6 months old and need to be positioned properly for accurate results.
Forehead thermometer: Forehead thermometers use infrared sensors to take the temperature from your forehead. We tested designs that were contactless as well as some which need to be swiped across the forehead.
Here are a few additional factors to weigh when determining which thermometer is right for your family.
- Display options: Look for thermometers that have large, easy-to-read digital displays. A backlight is helpful if you’ll be taking temperatures at night in dark bedrooms.
- Fever alerts: Many of the devices we reviewed have color-coded (usually red, yellow or green) displays to indicate that you have a fever or your child does. This helps you quickly identify elevated temperatures.
- Silent mode: A few devices let you silence beeps and alerts, which is helpful if you’re dealing with sick, cranky or sleeping kids who may be bothered by unnecessary noise.
- Memory storage: Most thermometers retain at least one recent reading — a helpful option if you want to track a fever over time.
- Age-specific settings or smart features: These are more nice-to-haves than necessities, but app syncing and custom fever alerts by age add some ease to your temperature-taking process.
Finally, your choice likely depends on how much you want to spend. Infrared thermometers with more features are, predictably, more expensive than your basic digital stick version.