The best digital thermometers for at-home use
Coronavirus, fever and body temperature
Ford says doctors are interested in a patient’s core body temperature when trying to determine if they have a fever or not. What is a fever, then? Medical professionals measure a fever as a temperature that is 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or above. Ford says many viruses can raise your internal body temperature a little bit, including the common cold. If it’s not 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, he added, it’s not considered a fever.
As listed by the CDC, a fever is but one symptom of the coronavirus. However, Ford urges people to understand that you can still test positive for the coronavirus if you do not have a fever. “A fever is just one of many ways the coronavirus presents itself,” says Ford. “It is not the whole story, however.”
Ford also notes that daily variation in one’s temperature is very common with most viruses, as are variations within the day: You may be fine in the morning and then spike a fever in the afternoon or evening. This fluctuation is often seen in COVID patients, he added, encouraging COVID patients to anticipate changes in their temperature throughout the day and to keep track of when they usually spike a fever, useful information can be helpful in determining when to take medication like Tylenol to keep a fever down.
Digital thermometers 101
Ford says gone are the days of mercury thermometers — digital thermometers are now the way of the world. According to Ford, virtually all digital thermometers equip similar technology and function similarly. But just like with phones and computers, you can get high-quality technology and you can get cheap technology when it comes to thermometers — you get what you pay for, Ford argues. Pricier thermometers may be more reliable and durable than lower priced options — and may give better temperature readings.
Which type of thermometer is the best to use?
Thermometers come in a variety of designs, from ones designed for your ear or mouth to those that measure from a distance. Ford says doctors tend to rely on thermometers that read as close to the core body temperature as possible, noting that under-tongue thermometers tend to give the most accurate readings, and are used widely by doctors. However, Ford noted non-contact thermometers are also useful, especially during the pandemic. His practice uses them to run temperature screenings for both patients and staff.
Overall, Ford says he relies on thermometers that go under the tongue for at-home use. They can be cleaned easily with alcohol and give a clear digital reading. If you have kids, though, it might be hard to get them to sit still while you’re taking their temperature. In this case, Ford recommends using a thermometer that goes in the ear, or a forehead thermometer.
How accurate are non contact infrared thermometers?
Non-contact infrared thermometers have become increasingly popular during the pandemic, Ford said:
- They don’t have to be sterilized each time they’re used since they don’t come into contact with a person’s skin.
- You also don’t have to get very close to someone when taking their temperature.
In terms of accuracy, Ford notes the temperature reading from a non-contact infrared thermometer may be affected by factors other than your temperature. These factors include ambient light and temperature, and what a person was doing before they had their temperature taken. For example, if your temperature is taken with an infrared thermometer after you walk down the street, it’s going to be higher than if you were just sitting in an air conditioned building — physical activity increases the heat emanating from the skin. Using a non-contact infrared thermometer properly also contributes to how well it reads one’s temperature. The FDA outlines how to use this type of thermometer, and Ford says there are often instructions listed on thermometers’ packaging.
According to Ford, infrared thermometers tend to read a bit low, noting a single degree’s margin of error. He added that non-contact infrared thermometers are consistent. “People just have to be aware that there might be a little bit of variation depending on other circumstances,” says Ford.
How often should you take your temperature during the pandemic?
Overall, taking your temperature is a good practice to get in the habit of during the pandemic. The CDC suggests monitoring your health daily as a way to protect yourself from contracting the coronavirus, or spreading it if you start to show symptoms. The CDC states that monitoring symptoms is especially important if you are running errands, going to the office or school, or in settings where it’s difficult to maintain six feet of physical distance. People may not perceive when they’re starting to show COVID symptoms, and asymptomatic COVID carriers can spread the virus.
Best thermometers of 2020
Pandemic or not, Ford encourages people to have a thermometer in the house. He says we never know what we’re going to be facing — as the coronavirus has proven. This is especially relevant as we head into flu season. If investing in a thermometer is on your to do list (like it is on mine), here are some of the best and most highly-rated options on the market. Many can be used on those of people of all ages, but some brands also make thermometers specifically for kids and babies.
1. iHealth No-Touch Forehead Thermometer
Amazon’s No. 1 bestselling health care thermometer uses infrared technology to read one’s temperature from about 3 centimeters (or about 1.2 inches) away. Aim the probe at the center of your forehead, press the measurement button to start the test and the thermometer will vibrate once the reading is complete. In addition to a temperature sensor, the thermometer features distance and environmental sensors that adjust the readings for accuracy. It’s designed to deliver a reading in about one second, showing readings in large, white LED lights that can be seen in dark environments.
2. Vicks Comfort Flex Thermometer
This thermometer is equipped with the brand’s Fever Insight, designed to help you understand the meaning of a temperature reading using a color-coded display.
- A green display indicates no fever
- A yellow display indicates an elevated temperature
- And a red display — shown when a temperature is 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or above — indicates a fever.
The thermometer also recalls the last reading it performed, making it easy for you to compare your temperature throughout the day. This thermometer can be used orally, rectally or under the arm, and it’s waterproof.
3. Chooseen Digital Forehead and Ear Thermometer
You can take your temperature two ways using this thermometer:
- Holding it up to your forehead
- Or inserting it into your ear
The top of the thermometer relies on infrared to take your temperature when held against your forehead. When it’s removed, it reveals an ear probe that can be used for babies, children and adults. This thermometer features a backlit screen for easier reading and performs a reading in about one second. It can store up to 35 readings. The thermometer also includes a fever warning system — it displays a green light for a normal temperature, an orange light for light fever, and a red light for high fever. The thermometer also equips an alarm that goes off if a fever is detected.
4. Boncare Digital Oral Thermometer
Great for traveling or for students to keep in their backpacks, this thermometer is compact and comes with a storage case. It delivers a temperature reading in 10 to 20 seconds and can recall its last reading. The thermometer can be used with or without probe covers, and it’s easy to clean with alcohol. It can be used orally, rectally or under the arm.
5. iProven Medical Digital Ear Thermometer
This thermometer has sensors that measure the radiation emitted by your eardrum or forehead to read your temperature. Hold the thermometer up to your or your child’s forehead or use the attached ear probe for infants who are at least six months old. A reading is delivered in one to three seconds and it can store up to 20 readings. The thermometer will sound three beeps and show a red warning light if a fever is detected or a green light if it reads a normal temperature.
6. Sejoy Forehead Thermometer
Keep this thermometer on hand in households with multiple people. It’s a no-contact option that uses infrared technology to measure the temperature of the skin surface over the forehead. It displays large and easy-to-read numbers and beeps when a temperature reading is complete. It also has a fever indicator that shows a frowny face if a temperature over 100 degrees Fahrenheit is detected. The thermometer will shut off when it’s not in use and it can store up to 10 readings, along with the date and time that the reading was done.
7. Braun Thermoscan 7 Digital Ear Thermometer
Select your age group — or that of the person whose temperature you're taking — to get a more precise reading from this thermometer. You can choose from three age groups: 0-3 months, 6-36 months and 36 months to adult. The thermometer’s screen also lights up green for a normal temperature, yellow for a raised temperature and red for a fever. It features a pre-warmed ear probe for increased comfort and comes with single-use probe covers. A light flashes and the thermometer beeps when the ear probe is in the right position and it performs a temperature reading in seconds. This thermometer can recall the last nine temperatures it read, too.
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Investigation of the Impact of Infrared Sensors on Core Body Temperature Monitoring by Comparing Measurement Sites
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What you should know
Why you should trust us
When the coronavirus pandemic began and demand for fever thermometers spiked, leading to significant stock shortages, we scoured the internet on a near-daily basis for months to find thermometers—any thermometers—available for purchase. However, we started our search for the best thermometer back in 2016, diving into the recent research on the subject and looking at what the science said about the benefits and drawbacks of each of the different types of thermometers—including the latest studies examining infrared thermometers. Over the years, we’ve spoken to four physicians for their opinions on the best thermometers for at-home use, considering the needs and preferences of both adults and children.
Who this is for
Having a reliable thermometer on hand can provide peace of mind as the coronavirus pandemic continues, as fever is one possible symptom of SARS-CoV-2 infection. A trustworthy thermometer is also useful for any other time you’re unsure whether you or your kid is running a fever. But as with a spare tire or a flashlight, you sometimes don’t realize how badly you need a reliable one until it’s too late. As commenters on previous versions of this review have expressed, many people found themselves at the beginning of the pandemic lacking a thermometer or discovering that their rarely used ones had stopped working. A rapid surge in demand dried up thermometer stock at stores nationwide, while online marketplaces became flooded with all sorts of models, both reliable and not, at exorbitant prices.
In 2020 and 2021, we tested 15 thermometers, keeping in mind that in many cases they would be used for children and adults in a multigenerational household for many years to come. Fever thermometers designed for at-home use don’t need to be recalibrated (in other words, if yours was accurate at the time of purchase, it should still be), so if you have one that fits your needs and still turns on, this isn’t a device that you need to replace constantly.1 But newer thermometers offer features such as faster read times, better displays, fever alarms, silent mode, and memory logs, all of which can make life a little easier when you or a loved one may be sick. If you have a kid or care for one, an upgrade to an ear or forehead thermometer, especially a contactless infrared model, can take much of the struggle out of measuring a temperature.
How we picked
Our requirements for a thermometer are simple: It should be accurate, consistent, and available.
Whereas in previous years of research and testing we could be more selective (prioritizing additional criteria such as speed and features such as large, backlit displays and options to disable sounds), in 2020 and well into early 2021, during a pandemic that upended commercial supply chains, we couldn’t afford to be as choosy. Like everyone else, we were limited to selecting from whatever was in stock at the time. We will continue to monitor the availability of our picks and other promising options.
Types of fever thermometers
Whereas traditional oral/rectal/axillary thermometers have long been the most popular tools to take temperatures at home, forehead and ear thermometers tend to be faster and easier to use, especially with children.
Digital stick thermometers are simple and offer reliable measurements and fast results, but you need to keep your mouth closed around the probe for anywhere between 10 and 60 seconds, and oral measurements may be skewed if you’ve recently consumed something very hot or cold. Using a stick thermometer orally is tough for most toddlers and preschoolers, so such models are recommended for people ages 4 and up. Oral thermometers today usually pull triple duty as axillary (armpit) and rectal thermometers, as well. Although rectal temperatures have long been the gold standard for infants, many countries, including the UK, actively dissuade parents from using the oral or rectal methods at any age due to discomfort with the former and safety concerns with the latter (PDF). The UK now recommends that stick thermometers be used for armpit (axillary) measurements for newborns under 4 weeks and suggests using infrared forehead thermometers for any age above that. The American Academy of Pediatrics still recommends rectal thermometer use for newborns but acknowledges research that shows infrared thermometers are accurate for people over the age of 3 months.
Most thermometers we tested covered a range from roughly 96 °F to 109 °F with an accuracy of ±0.4 degree.
Ear and forehead infrared thermometers, both in-ear/on-forehead and contactless, are accurate enough to properly track a fever and are generally easier to use than stick thermometers. These thermometers tend to be a little more expensive than simpler oral/rectal/axillary models, but they’re worth the investment when speed and comfort are top concerns.
Forehead and ear thermometers both measure temperature based on heat radiated from either the temporal artery (forehead) or the eardrum (ear). Although it is tempting to just place an ear thermometer in an ear and press the button, these thermometers are a little more complicated than “insert and wait,” so make sure to follow the directions to pull out the shell of the ear to line things up. The Mayo Clinic does not recommend ear thermometers for newborns; Mayo advocates a minimum age of 6 months, basically when children are old enough to balk at a rectal thermometer but too young to manage an oral one.
Whereas ear thermometers almost always require skin contact, many forehead infrared thermometers are “no-touch,” contactless models (others require a light touch of the thermometer to the forehead). On the downside, results from these thermometers may be affected by factors such as perspiration and air temperature (taking the temperature itself may not wake up the sick person, but wiping the sweat off their head first might). Infrared thermometers are also more susceptible to ambient temperature: To work properly, they need to be in the same room as the person who needs their temperature taken for around 30 minutes prior in order to acclimate to the surrounding air temperature and provide an accurate measurement.
Demand for contactless thermometers has skyrocketed in the past year. With a pandemic of a highly transmissible respiratory virus ongoing and with restrictions in place, the idea of a no-touch thermometer is particularly appealing—as is the idea of taking a sleeping child’s temperature without disturbing them. Although the technology is still fairly new, it is being widely adopted in clinical, commercial, and household settings.
Most of the thermometers we tested covered a range from roughly 96 °F to 109 °F with an accuracy of ±0.4 degree. Some report lower accuracy at higher ranges, but if your temperature is pushing 107 °F, you’re ideally in a hospital and not at home quibbling over a 0.4-degree difference. Know that the FDA does not test and “approve” home-use fever thermometers itself. According to FDA spokesperson Fallon Smith: “Electronic clinical thermometers marketed in the US are typically tested according to voluntary international consensus standards recognized by the FDA or equivalent methods—we review the submitted data and if the device is similar to another device already on the market we approve it under what is called a 510(k) clearance.” So a device that claims to be “FDA approved,” such as our pick from Mobi and some iProven models, didn’t go through special, rigorous testing by the government—its packaging is simply reporting that the company’s in-house tests fit the guidelines. Recently, some companies, such as ThermoWorks, have started using the term “FDA-cleared,” which still refers to the submitted packaging guidelines, not to the product itself.
Whatever type of thermometer you choose, it is important to remember that as with a bathroom scale, no device meant for home use can provide exact, 100% accurate measurements. At-home fever thermometers are just not that precise (and temperature is not a static measurement). Luckily, this isn’t the goal: Just as how a bathroom scale is meant to track trends in weight gain and loss, a thermometer’s job is usually to track trends over time.
How we tested
Among so many other things the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted, it upended our thermometer testing plans. Whereas in previous years we had taken the top contenders to a clinic, where we would compare their readouts with those of a machine often used in urgent-care and hospital settings, in 2020 and 2021 we tested thermometers in situ: at home. I tested each thermometer dozens of times on myself (a healthy adult with no fever), as well as on the three other members of my household (another healthy adult and two healthy kids, none with fevers).
Although all of the infrared ear and forehead thermometers we tested in 2020 and 2021 gave results in less than three seconds, the operating time for the oral thermometers ranged from a low of eight seconds to an excruciating high of 40 seconds (with a few read failures from one especially odious model). A minute may not seem like a long period of time—until you’re sitting around with a rigid stick of plastic under your tongue or, worse, trying to hold it under the tongue of a kindergartner.
Most of the thermometers we tested, including all of our picks, have two alarms—one that tells you the reading is done and a “fever” alarm that goes off if your temperature is above a given level. Most of the alarms alert you to an elevated temperature at 99.5 °F and above. Dr. John Mills, an infectious-disease specialist at the University of Michigan, stressed that even though people often talk about a fever as anything higher than 100.4 °F, “there is no such thing as a normal temperature.” Mills continued, “Everybody has a different personal set temperature as a baseline, and it can vary throughout the day. You can’t pick one point where everyone should worry—99.5 °F and 100.4 °F are reasonable thresholds, but that may not be sensitive enough for people with an increased risk of infection, or may be too sensitive for people who are generally healthy and have a higher baseline.”
To find out how a forehead thermometer worked in the outside world, a tester for a previous version of this guide tried one on a healthy person sitting in the sun. The reading came back as 103.8 °F—a lesson in both thermometer use and the need to sit in the shade. You can follow all of the instructions (wipe off sweat, wait after exercise), but the environment around you will still influence your skin temperature. Engineers at Braun explained that it “takes 28 minutes to adjust to a new setting”—in other words, you and the infrared thermometer need to be in the same steady-environment room for a half hour before it will give you an accurate read.
“There is no such thing as a normal temperature. Everybody has a different personal set temperature as a baseline, and it can vary throughout the day.” —Dr. John Mills
Every thermometer we tried bounced around within a small range from measurement to measurement. In the end, though, most of the thermometers we tested gave readings that were acceptably consistent. Our picks stand out from the pack on the three most important fronts in these strange times: accuracy, consistency, and availability.
Our pick: Vicks ComfortFlex
For a traditional oral/rectal/axillary thermometer, we recommend the Vicks ComfortFlex, which stands out in speed and style. The average measurement time of eight seconds was the fastest among stick thermometers we tested, and customer reviews for the ComfortFlex consistently mention the speed as a key feature. During our tests, the backlit, large display was by far the easiest of those on the stick thermometers to read and interpret: One Wirecutter colleague chose this thermometer without hesitation because, he said, “I can actually see the numbers.” Plus, it comes with a useful, color-coded fever alarm and has a waterproof design.
Many of the thermometers we’ve tested have small numbers in a display window roughly 0.75 by 0.2 inches. The ComfortFlex features numbers twice the size of the next largest display, and it’s the only thermometer in our test group with a backlight feature—a must-have for anyone who shuns the light when sick or anyone who is taking a child’s temperature in the dark.
The ComfortFlex also has a useful fever alarm. Most of the thermometers we’ve tested boast alarms that change the number or tone of beeps when a temperature is elevated—a feature that is completely useless unless you memorize the “normal” beep structure in advance. The Vicks thermometer, on the other hand, color-codes the results, turning green for a normal temperature, yellow to indicate a slightly elevated temperature (above 99 °F), and red to alert you to a temperature greater than 101 °F. (Note that a fever in children over 6 months old is defined as starting at 99 °F for oral temperature and 100.4 °F for rectal temperature, which are both in the alarm’s yellow zone.) No preternatural ability to interpret shrill beeping required.
The extra-large font size requires no squinting, a plus for tired parents or folks with limited vision. Photo: Michael Murtaugh
The Vicks ComfortFlex has an especially flexible probe. Video: Michael Murtaugh
The Vicks ComfortFlex stores the most recent reading. The thermometer comes with a one-piece case and five single-use probe covers. Because these covers are meant to be trashed after one use, they won’t last you very long. You can buy replacements, but the thermometer itself is water resistant, so save your money—an alcohol swab or soap and water on the tip between each use will work just fine.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
When a temperature is ready to be read, the Vicks ComfortFlex emits an annoying, repetitive alert that you can’t silence. Although this is the case with every thermometer we’ve tested, the beep of the Vicks model is particularly grating.
Our version of the Vicks thermometer was Fahrenheit only. For us this was a flaw, but it would almost certainly be a dealbreaker for people who use Celsius. For years, Kaz Incorporated, the maker of this thermometer, has told us that newer versions will allow you to switch between the two scales, but as of 2021 this update has not yet happened.
Many of the negative customer reviews are complaints about the battery either arriving dead or dying after a few uses. The 3-volt, CR1225 battery is easily replaceable, but when you buy a new item, it should work—if yours is a dud, send it back.
Our pick: Equate Infrared In-Ear Digital Thermometer
If you prefer an in-ear thermometer, or if the price of our forehead picks is too high, the Equate Infrared In-Ear Digital Thermometer is a great option. We found its large, backlit screen easy to read, and consecutive measurements remained the same in dozens of tests. It’s also fast, with temperature readings available within three seconds. As on our stick pick, the backlight changes color from green to yellow to red depending on the temperature measured, a feature we found helpful.
Unlike our stick thermometer pick, the Equate stores 10 temperature measurements (as opposed to just one) and can present readings in Fahrenheit or Celsius. Its audible fever alarm sounds if the detected temperature exceeds 99.5 °F.
The thermometer comes with a storage case and a handful of optional, disposable protective caps, which we found did not negatively impact the consistency or reliability of the measurements. You can buy additional protective caps.
The Equate is not waterproof, but you can wipe it down with a cloth dampened with 70% ethyl alcohol, following that with a dry cloth.
It takes two AA batteries and comes with a satisfaction-guaranteed promise of either a replacement or money back; according to an Equate customer service rep, that promise has no time limit.
If this model is unavailable when you’re shopping, we recommend the Kinsa Smart Ear Thermometer as a backup option. Although it is a smart thermometer, it’s perfectly functional even you never use the accompanying app.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
The Equate has no silent mode, and the manufacturer says that for maximum accuracy this thermometer should not be used on someone who is asleep. (We could not get official clarification as to why.) We also found this model difficult to fit into its storage case, and the disposable protective covers felt a bit flimsy.
Our pick: Hetaida htd8813c (available under multiple brand names)
In our tests, consecutive temperatures were consistent, and when we took readings in the exact same position, they rarely varied. This thermometer almost always recorded either the exact same temperature as the trusty ThermoWorks Wand No Touch Forehead Thermometer or came within two-tenths of a degree. (If the Hetaida htd8813c is unavailable, we recommend the ThermoWorks Wand as an alternative.)
The htd8813c’s display is large and easy to read, and it stays backlit longer than the displays on competing models. Photo: Rozette Rago
Three htd8813c peas in a pod: Same solid thermometer, different brand names, accent colors, list prices, and—in the case of the Mobi version—warranty coverage. Photo: Rozette Rago
It also has a nice feature in that you don’t have to press a power button to turn it on: You just point, click, and get a reading in a few seconds.
The large and easy-to-read display remains backlit for a useful five seconds after you take a reading (in contrast to the ThermoWorks Wand’s two) and can show readings in both Fahrenheit and Celsius. This model also doubles as a surface thermometer, and you can mute the sound, too. When the sound is on, the beeps are loud and clear.
It comes with both audible and visible fever alarms that you can adjust: The default setting is to emit a sound and to display red if the detected temperature exceeds 99.2 °F, but you can toggle that number up and down in the thermometer’s settings.
This thermometer does not come with a case, and it looks and feels a bit cheap, which makes sense considering that in non-pandemic times it usually retailed for around $20 (in contrast to prices as high as $100 for the same thermometer over the past year). Depending on the retailer you purchase this model from, it may have poorly placed stickers on each side, as we found on the iProven version.
According to the manuals accompanying two of the three htd8813c versions we tried, this thermometer has a life expectancy of three years. You can clean it only by wiping it down with a soft, clean cloth.
It takes two AAA batteries. The Homedics and iProven versions come with one-year warranties. The Mobi model is covered by a 90-day warranty.
Also great: ThermoWorks Wand No Touch Forehead Thermometer
It features a big, easy-to-read display (that stays backlit for a few seconds less than the screens on our other contactless picks do), and like our other contactless picks, it can double as a surface or object thermometer. Similarly, it can switch from Fahrenheit to Celsius, and you can use it with the volume turned on or off. The thermometer comes with an audible fever alarm that sounds if the detected temperature exceeds 99.5 °F, though you can mute that sound.
The Wand takes about two seconds longer to deliver readings, and stores half as many temperature readings, as the Hetaida htd8813c models do (25 versus 50). When it is not muted, the sound is very low and hard to hear (the Hetaida models’ sound is louder and clearer). After you take a reading, the screen remains backlit for only two seconds, which makes temperature reading in the dark more difficult. A particularly annoying series of four beeps chirps if you try to take another temperature too quickly, so if you’re used to taking consecutive readings without pause, you’ll likely need to get accustomed to the mandatory two-second wait between attempts.
In our 2020 and 2021 testing, the Wand produced consistently reliable readings, either matching our picks’ or coming within two-tenths of a degree. And like two of the three Hetaida htd8813c models we recommend, it is covered by a one-year warranty.
The Wand runs on two AAA batteries. According to a company spokesperson, it has a battery-life expectancy of around four years.
The Wand is not waterproof, but you can wipe it down with a cloth dampened with 70% ethyl alcohol and then with a dry cloth. It does not come with a storage case.
Other good fever thermometers
If the Vicks ComfortFlex is unavailable, we recommend the iProven DTR-1221A as a runner-up. Like the ComfortFlex, this traditional stick thermometer is speedy, reliable, and designed with a flexible probe. But unlike our pick, the DTR-1221A does not have a backlit display and is generally more difficult to read. Although the ComfortFlex was sold out for nearly all of 2020, it’s now reliably back in stock and generally priced less than the DTR-1221A.
The Kinsa QuickCare is a reliable stick thermometer with smart capabilities. Like the company’s Smart Ear, this model displays temperature readings directly on the device, which is handy if your phone is not nearby or you don’t wish to use the app after you’ve completed the setup process. The QuickCare syncs to the same iOS- and Android-compatible Kinsa app described above.
We previously recommended the DMT-489, and long-term testers who purchased that model in previous years have found that it remains a consistent, reliable ear-and-forehead thermometer. But in our 2020 testing, it varied too much from read to read in comparison with our newer picks.
In previous rounds of testing, we tried several other models and made the following determinations:
The Braun ThermoScan 5 ear thermometer requires lens caps for use (literally requires—the device will not operate until one is snugly in place). In a setting where someone might need to use the device on multiple people with no time or resources to clean it between uses, this thermometer is an excellent option. For at-home use, though, the need to keep an added component on hand makes it unappealing.
We liked that the Exergen TAT-2000C forehead model could be silenced, but the process was complicated and required some careful reading of the instruction manual. It also had a small, hard-to-read backlit display and was less intuitive to use than the Braun (for example, you need to press the main button 10 times to turn the alarm on and off). In addition, it runs on an (included) 9-volt battery—we generally try to avoid devices with batteries that we can’t replace by raiding the remote. Customer reviews suggest that this thermometer is not reliable over long periods of use.
We considered and quickly dismissed thermometer patches (such as the Fever Smart and TempTraq), which you apply to a person’s skin to continuously and remotely monitor their temperature. Such models are either many times the price of our picks or single-use, and—unless your doctor tells you otherwise—they’re overkill for most people.
Shannon Palus and Caroline Weinberg contributed reporting to this guide.
Karel Allegaert, MD, PhD, Kristina Casteels, MD, PhD, Ilse van Gorp, RN, Guy Bogaert, MD, PhD, Tympanic, Infrared Skin, and Temporal Artery Scan Thermometers Compared with Rectal Measurement in Children: A Real-Life Assessment, Current Therapeutic Research, December 1, 2014
Prerna Batra, Sudhanshu Goyal, Comparison of Rectal, Axillary, Tympanic, and Temporal Artery Thermometry in the Pediatric Emergency Room, Pediatric Emergency Care, January 1, 2013
Thermometers: Understand the options, Mayo Clinic, September 12, 2015
Ayşegül Işler, RN, PhD, Resmiye Aydin, RN, Şerife Tutar Güven, RN, Sema Günay, RN, Comparison of temporal artery to mercury and digital temperature measurement in pediatrics, International Emergency Nursing, July 1, 2014
Panagiotis Kiekkas, PhD, RN, Nikolaos Stefanopoulos, PhD, RN, Nick Bakalis, PhD, RN, Antonios Kefaliakos, PhD, RN, Menelaos Karanikolas, MD, MPH, Agreement of infrared temporal artery thermometry with other thermometry methods in adults, Journal of Clinical Nursing, January 27, 2016
Daniel J.Niven, MD, MSc, et al., Accuracy of Peripheral Thermometers for Estimating Temperature, Annals of Internal Medicine, November 17, 2015
Amanda McGrath, technical product manager, ThermoWorks, phone interview, September 1, 2020
Amesh Adalja, MD, senior scholar, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, phone interview, September 1, 2020
About your guide
With everything that’s happened over the past year, renewed importance has been placed on taking your temperature regularly. It’s a fast, easy, and affordable way to keep tabs on your health, especially in these days of COVID-19. While oral thermometers are reliable, non-contact models (like the ones we’ve reviewed here) are better for rapid temperature checks and large groups of people, as they can give you faster, more accurate results without the chance of spreading germs.
Check out quick info below on the top five contactless thermometers, then scroll deeper for full reviews of these models plus other high-ranking options.
iHealth No-Touch Forehead Thermometer
Consumer Score: 82% gave it 4 stars or more
Glowing reviews praise the design and ease of use.
For Family Use
Consumer Score: 90% gave it 4 stars or more
Quick reading, and accurate every time.
Withings Thermo Smart Temporal Thermometer
Consumer Score: 88% gave it 4 stars or more
Keep track of your temp over time.
Vibeey Infrared Digital Thermometer
Consumer Score: 85% gave it 4 stars or more
For a low cost, you can detect a high temperature.
For Small Businesses
Gekka Wall-Mounted Infrared Forehead Thermometer
Consumer Score: 78% gave it 4 stars or more
Placed on the wall, ready for high traffic.
How We Selected and Rated Them
To determine the best non-contact thermometers, we researched expert sources such as Health, Forbes, and Tom’s Guide, as well as 26,000 consumer reviews. Our Consumer Score represents the percentage of customers who rated the product at least four out of five stars on retail and review sites like Amazon,Walmart, and manufacturers’ webpages.
Consumer Score: 82% gave it 4 stars or more
Glowing reviews praise the design and ease of use.
- Sleek design
- Easy to read
This model topped many a list of the best non-contact thermometers. And while it has a sleek and sophisticated design, it uses three sensors to give you an accurate reading every time. iHealth built in a large, easy-to-read screen, and the PT3 will vibrate as a quick indicator that it’s done grabbing the temperature. Bonus: It comes with a one-year warranty and batteries included.
—FOR FAMILY USE—
Consumer Score: 90% gave it 4 stars or more
Quick reading, and accurate every time.
- Color-coded alerts
This affordable option is great for families as it reads temperatures of every age with impressive accuracy. The NCT-978 takes one second to read—ideal for fussy children—and uses color and sound alerts if it picks up a high temperature. It can work from up to two inches away.
Withings Thermo Smart Temporal Thermometer
Consumer Score: 88% gave it 4 stars or more
Keep track of your temp over time.
Thermo Smart Temporal Thermometer
- Works quickly
- Tracks temperature over time
If you want as much info as possible, get this smart thermometer. It takes an accurate reading in two seconds when you hold it close to the temple and sends the result to an app on your phone. The app will then store your temperature and is able to keep track of your results over time so that you can see trends and recognize when something is off. (You can plug in any medications you may be taking, as well.) And it can do that for up to eight people if you want to log temps for a family.
Consumer Score: 85% gave it 4 stars or more
For a low cost, you can detect a high temperature.
Infrared Digital Thermometer
- Color-coded temperature display
Most of us don’t want to shell out more than $40 for a thermometer. Good then that this one is under $20 and has some great features, including color indication (red for fever, yellow for high temperature), and can accurately take the temperature of all of your family members, infant to elderly. The display is large and bright, which makes it easy to read, and it’s small enough to slip in a bag or backpack if you need to take it with you.
—FOR SMALL BUSINESSES—
Gekka Wall-Mounted Infrared Forehead Thermometer
Consumer Score: 78% gave it 4 stars or more
Placed on a wall, ready for high traffic.
Gekka Wall-Mounted Infrared Forehead Thermometer
- Works great in offices or high-traffic areas
- Easy to read
This thermometer is designed for reading many temperatures quickly. To that end, you can fix it to a wall for ease of use, say near an entrance to a store or office. It takes temperatures in less than a second so long as it’s within four inches of the subject—plus, it will flash red and set off an alarm if someone’s temp is higher than normal. It runs on batteries or charging via a USB. Some reviewers noted that it wasn’t 100 percent accurate, but it’s close enough (within a degree or two) to let you know when a temperature is above normal.
Gabrielle HondorpBefore joining Runner's World as an Editor in 2019, Gabrielle Hondorp spent 6 years in running retail (she has tested top gear from shoes, to watches, to rain jackets which has expanded her expertise—and her closets); she specializes in health and wellness, and is an expert on running gear from head-to-toe.
Me infrared forehead thermometer near
No Touch Infrared Forehead Thermometer
The No Touch Infrared Forehead Thermometer allows you to measure temperatures instantly without contact by pointing the infrared thermometer 3-5 cm from the forehead of a person. This thermometer is easy to use, with a one-button touch, and easy to read results on the LCD screen. The thermometer reads temperatures from 91.4 to 109.4 degrees Fahrenheit, and has a high fever alarm with 5 beeps to easily recognize high temperatures. The 20 group memory function allows you to recall the last 20 temperature readings to keep track of fluctuations. This device requires 2 AAA batteries which are not included.
Please follow below steps to set up your new Infrared forehead thermometer.
1. Install two AAA batteries
2. Press "M" button to change measurement mode. Typically use Body mode.
3. Long press "M" button and + key to change ℃ to ℉ according to your own need. Press "M" button to confirm selection.
4. Aim the infrared forehead thermometer in the middle of forehead without any covering, keeping it vertical, 3-5 cm away, press measurement button, the temperature will display in 2 seconds with hearing 1 beep.
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