The Best Thermometers for Kids, Tested by Editors and Their Children

The Vicks SpeedRead Digital Thermometer’s quick response time makes it a top option for caregivers.

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Photo:

Parents / Leticia Almeida

Given the many viruses, from common colds to COVID-19, whose symptomsinclude a fever, it's pretty essential to have a thermometer you can trust for your family. Instead of using the back of your hand to guesstimate if your child is warmer than usual, the best thermometers will give you real-time results to help you decide whether you need to call the doctor or wait it out at home.

Your child's age will help you determine which digital thermometer type—temporal (forehead), rectal, tympanic (ear), oral, or axillary (armpit)—is best for your family. "The most accurate measurement is obtained by taking the temperature rectally," says Abigail Bewley, MD, a pediatrician at the Kaiser Permanente medical center in South Sacramento, California. "Since young infants need to have a good reading, this is the recommended way to take the temperature of a child aged 3 months or younger. Children ages 4 and older can reliably have their temperature taken by mouth," she tells us, adding that the other options "are both safe and accurate tools and can be very easy to use with little discomfort to or cooperation from the child."

Because there are so many options, ranging in price from $9 to $70, we tried out 13 thermometers to find the best ones on the market. Our testers looked at ease of setup and use, consistency, comfort, result time, readability, and durability of each product before selecting the best of the bunch.

These are the best thermometers for kids and families, according to our testing.

Our Favorite Thermometers for Kids

Best Overall: Vicks SpeedRead Digital Thermometer

Best Thermometers for Kids
BuyBuyBaby

Also available at Amazon

Why We Like It: This inexpensive, simple thermometer has a fast response time and color-coded fever indicator our testers loved.

But Take Note: Testers found minor inconsistencies between readings.

When you have a sick child, the last thing you need is an overly complicated thermometer, which is why we selected the Vicks SpeedRead Digital Thermometer as our top pick, which won testers over with its simplicity and reasonable price. Our testers appreciated how easy it was to use—as a rectal, oral, or underarm thermometer—giving it a 5 out of 5 rating for setup and ease of use, thanks to a single button control that lets you switch from Fahrenheit to Centigrade, reset the device for a new temp reading, and access a previous result.

It also makes it easy to know when the reading is complete as several loud beeps sound when the measurement is ready for you to view. A large display will flash red, green, or yellow to indicate a temperature range, helping you determine when to call a pediatrician. Our testers loved its fast response time, giving it a 4.3 average rating for that attribute. "The reading was incredibly fast, I didn't have to wait at all, which is nice when you're taking a rectal temperature on a moving infant," one tester said.

Plus, it earned a 5 for durability since it performed well after the drop test. "This thermometer comes with a case that fully covers the probe, which is a nice feature for keeping it clean between uses. It's very easy to wipe clean after use. The case did come off when I performed the drop test, but neither piece was damaged," the tester explained.

The screen is big, and the numbers are clear and easy to read, though It's not as brightly backlit as some other thermometers on this list. There were some inconsistencies in the results, which is why it was rated 4.5 for accuracy, but the range wasn't that far off from the baseline temp. A feature testers really liked was the data storage, since it allows you to keep track of previous temp readings.

Price at time of publication: $14

The Details:

  • Type: Oral, rectal, and underarm
  • Response time: Under 10 seconds
  • Batteries: 1 LR44 battery (included)
Vick's thermometer

Leticia Almeida

Best Smart: Kinsa Smart Thermometer

Best Thermometers for Kids
Amazon

Also available at Bed, Bath & Beyond and Walmart

Why We Like It: This thermometer was a tester favorite for its ease of use, durability, and capability to store data on multiple people.

But Take Note: The price point is a little higher than other thermometers.

If you want a thermometer integrated with an app, the Kinsa Smart Thermometer may catch your interest. This device lets parents capture temperature readings from several family members and store the data in an app on your phone. This information helps you track kids' temperatures and symptoms, which comes in handy when you're trying to remember everyone's readings and want to see how an illness progresses over time.

"It has a flexible design for durability, a helpful app, a bright color indicator, a single button to take the temp, and the ability to store a family's individual temp," our tester said.

Setup was relatively easy, though you need to download the app, which can take a few minutes. But after that, our testers found it easy to use and were impressed by its two-to-three-second result time, earning it a 4.9 for responsiveness, and its accuracy, earning a 4.8 for that attribute. After the initial setup, it can also be used without the app, if someone less tech-savvy is taking your little one's temperature—which is why it got a 5 for ease of use.

The large screen and backlight earned it a 5 for readability, another plus for those late nights when you're trying to read results in a dark room. It also fared well when dropped from various heights by our testers, earning a 5 for durability. You can use the Kinsa to take oral, rectal, or axillary measurements. As with all thermometers, never use it on other body parts once it's already been used rectally.

Price at time of publication: $25

The Details:

  • Type (location of reading): Oral, rectal, and underarm
  • Response time: 2-3 seconds
  • Batteries: 1 lithium metal battery (included)
Kinsa Smart Thermometer

Leticia Almeida

Best Non-Contact: Elepho eTherm Ear and Forehead Non-Contact Thermometer

Best Thermometers for Kids
Amazon

Why We Like It: A contactless thermometer may be ideal for parents who have difficulty taking their kids' temperatures orally. This device takes temperatures on the forehead and ear, which is a nice option.

But Take Note: Temperature readings showed some inconsistency, putting its accuracy in doubt.

A contactless thermometer is a good option for fidgety kids. These devices are designed to read measurements by pointing the sensor at the forehead, delivering results in seconds. Our testers gave the Elepho eTherm a 5 for response time, noting it only took one to two seconds to show results.

It's ready to use as soon as you open it, though our testers found there was a slight "learning curve" to figuring out which button to press and how to identify its beeps.

Our testers found the LED numbers easy to read in daylight and dim light. Another nice feature is its single-button activation. "I like how the screen shows an illustration of a head or an ear when displaying your temperature based on how/where you were taking your temperature," a tester said.

A few points were knocked off in the accuracy department because there was some discrepancy between the results, which is why it received a 4.5 for that attribute. But testers appreciated the multi-beep fever indicator, as well as its durability, after it only incurred some cosmetic dings when dropped.

Price at time of publication: $20

The Details:

  • Type (location of reading): Ear and forehead
  • Response time: 1-2 seconds
  • Batteries: 2 AAA required (included)
Elepho thermometer

Leticia Almeida

Best for Infants: Vicks Baby Rectal Thermometer

Best Thermometers for Kids
Amazon

Also available at Walmart and Babylist

Why We Like It: We liked this thermometer's large display, fast results, and ergonomic design.

But Take Note: You'll probably use this for only the first six months of a baby's life.

Getting an accurate rectal temperature measurement is essential when little ones are sick. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a rectal thermometer for infants until they're at least 3 months old to ensure a consistent result. The Vicks Baby Rectal Thermometer was rated highly by our testers who gave it a 5 for ease of use, due to its flexible tip and "foolproof" shape to ensure the baby's comfort and prevent injury. It also earned a 4.5 for ease of setup, since they could use it directly out of the box after a quick review of the instructions.

Our tester was also relieved to report that this thermometer delivered very fast results—less than five seconds—which is a must when taking a rectal temperature reading. Thanks to a backlight to enable reading in dim or no light, it also received a 4 for readability.

"It's slightly more expensive than other options and is only a rectal thermometer, so it's not as versatile as other options," our tester said. "But it is an ideal shape for taking a rectal temperature from an infant."

Price at time of publication: $19

The Details:

  • Type: Rectal
  • Response time: Less than 5 seconds
  • Batteries: 1 LR41 Alkaline battery (included)

Best Forehead: iHealth PT3 No-Touch Forehead

Best Thermometers for Kids
Amazon

Why We Like It: A vibration notification, quick response time, and one-button control are some of the features our editors found helpful when using this thermometer.

But Take Note: It doesn't store past temperature readings, so you'll have to keep track of those elsewhere.

Non-contact forehead thermometers are super convenient—and this one from iHealth has the added bonus of delivering readings in just about a second. Though one of our testers found the thermometer "tricky to use to start" they soon found it quite easy to use, rating it 4.5 for setup and 4.3 for ease of use.

"I love how this thermometer vibrates a little bit when the reading is ready," one tester noted. "Sometimes the kids are making noise, [so] having that quick vibration is a nice way to alert you the reading is ready."

While the iHealth got a 5 for response time, it earned a 4.3 for readability because while the numbers were "bright and clear," they also disappeared from the screen quickly, and don't store that info for later.

Accuracy was not a highpoint of this device with testers giving it a 4.3 due to inconsistent readings, which appears to be a common theme among non-contact temporal thermometers.

Price at time of publication: $55

The Details:

  • Type: Temporal
  • Response time: 1-2 seconds
  • Batteries: 2 AAA batteries (included)
iHealth No Touch thermometer

Leticia Almeida

Best Ear: Braun Thermoscan Ear Thermometer

Best Thermometers for Kids
Walmart

Also available at Amazon and BuyBuy Baby

Why We Like It: Adults and children can use this comfortable thermometer that features a beep and light indicator to help position the tip in proper position.

But Take Note: Although the handheld device guides you, it can take some practice to position it for a proper reading.

A pre-warmed tip makes this ear thermometer more comfortable for both adults and children who prefer a tympanic reading. We gave it a 5 for ease of setup because we found the Braun Thermoscan Ear Thermometer simple to use right out of the box with clear instructions. It also comes with tip covers to make in-ear use sanitary for multiple family members.

We loved that it only took about two seconds to show the reading—earning it a 4.5 for responsiveness. One tester found this thermometer very consistent, while the other said they got different readings after a couple of tries. This could be because they were having difficulty placing it at the recommended angle in their son's ear. "There is a large margin for error because you have to hold it in the right direction (upwards towards the opposite eye) to get an accurate result. This can be troubling for a real life scenario." On the plus side, the thermometer does attempt to help you find the right position with a notification system that beeps and flashes a light when the device is in the correct placement.

The Thermoscan 5 earned a 4.2 for readability as the numbers are not very large but can be read in dim light and regular daylight. It also stores that last reading to help you keep track of your little one's temperature.

This is the most expensive thermometer on the list, but it is a comfortable option for sharing with multiple family members, which makes it worth the price for many.

Price at time of publication: $42

The Details:

  • Type: Tympanic (ear)
  • Response time: 1-2 seconds
  • Batteries: 2 AA batteries (included)
Braun ear thermometer

Leticia Almeida

Best Budget: iProven Adult Digital Oral and Rectal Thermometer

Best Thermometers for Kids
Amazon

Also available at Walmart

Why We Like It: This is a low-price and simple device that can take rectal or oral temperatures.

But Take Note: Its response time is longer than most thermometers on this list.

If you are searching for a budget-friendly thermometer for adults and children, the iProven Adult Digital Oral and Rectal Thermometer is a great pick. We gave it a 5 for ease of use as it's designed with a single button to navigate between Fahrenheit and Celsius and off and on.

This thermometer fell short when it came to response time (around seven seconds, which felt like a lifetime for one tester) and consistency.

"It's a very inexpensive thermometer, and it'll get the job done," one tester said. "The display isn't the biggest, but you can pretty easily read the temperature, and I liked that [the number] stays on the screen for a while."

We'd recommend this thermometer as a backup, or one to stash in your bag for traveling.

Price at time of publication: $10

The Details:

  • Type: Oral and rectal
  • Response time: 5-10 seconds
  • Batteries: Battery included
iProven Oral Thermometer
Claire Cohen

Final Verdict

Of the 13 thermometers tested, theVicks SpeedRead Digital Thermometer stands out for its easy setup and bright color-coded fever indicators. A notable runner-up is the Kinsa Smart Thermometer for those who want a thermometer with an app that can store data on multiple family members.

Our Testing Process

We tested a total of 13 thermometers on ourselves and two children (one 8-month-old and one 9-year-old), under the guidance of a registered nurse. We spent three days exploring how easy each thermometer was to use right out of the box, how long it took to deliver a result, and how comfortable the temperature taking process really was. We rated their accuracy by comparing a tester's baseline temperature (according to a medical grade thermometer) to the results delivered by each thermometer, and took temperatures twice within a short period of time to determine consistency and accuracy. Finally, we tested the thermometers' readability in low light and then durability by dropping them on the floor from various heights.

Other Notable Thermometers

We also tested the Frida Baby 3-in-1 Ear, Forehead and Touchless Thermometer, which delivered fast and consistent readings but didn't seem worth its price. The Safety 1st 3-in-1 Nursery Thermometer was easy to use but had a slow response time when compared to the others tested.

Factors to Consider When Selecting a Thermometer

Thermometer type

The type of thermometer you choose—oral, rectal, ear, forehead, or armpit—depends on two things: the age of your child and the personal comfort preference for both you and your child. Doctors recommend rectal temperature readings for infants 3 months of age and younger. The AAP suggests using an ear thermometer in children 6 months and older. Because young kids aren't typically able to keep a thermometer in their mouths for the required amount of time, oral thermometers aren't recommended until 4 years old. An axillary (under the armpit) measurement is usually less accurate than rectal or oral measurements, but some parents are uncomfortable forcing their children to endure the latter methods, so it's better than nothing. While temporal thermometers aren't always as accurate as rectal thermometers, they're a good way to detect a fever quickly, and they're easy to share across multiple family members—without sharing germs.

"[Temporal thermometers] are pretty reliable in that they give a good reading, but there are factors that affect the temperature readings," explains Smita Tandon, MD, section chair of pediatrics at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital. "For instance, the temperature in the area where you are taking a child's temperature (a hot room or a room with AC blasting directly on the child), if your child just came in from running outside, or [if they are] wrapped in a warm blanket, could affect the reading.

Ease of use

You may want to read a thermometer's instructions prior to purchasing it, since some take more steps to use than others. You should also consider when, where, and in what state of mind you'll be using the device to help you narrow down your choices. If you know your little one will not hold still for more than a few seconds, then a fast-reading temporal artery thermometer may be a better option than an oral thermometer.

"It starts with age and cooperation," Dr. Tandon says. "[Look for] the easiest one to use for you, the one that fits your budget, and the one that fits the age of your child."

Accuracy

Accuracy is most important when taking the temperature of a 3-month-old baby or younger, because any reading over 100.4 degrees warrants a call to the doctor. It's also important to get accurate reads of your child's temperature if you want to monitor their illness over time and need to get a sense of whether they're improving or worsening. We did our best to evaluate the accuracy and consistency of the thermometers tested here. Look to reader reviews and ask your child's pediatrician if they have any recommendations as well.

Because accuracy matters, wearable forehead strips, which are unreliable, are not recommended because they are not accurate. That's also the case with pacifier thermometers, which require the child to suck continuously for several minutes.

How to Safely Use a Thermometer

Dr. Bewley offers the following advice on how to safely take a temperature reading on your child:

To take a rectal temperature—especially in infants under 3 months of age:

  1. Place your child across your lap on their belly or on their back with their legs pulled up as if you were changing their diaper.
  2. Place a small amount of petroleum jelly or other lubricant on the tip of the thermometer and then gently put the thermometer about ½ to 1 inch into the anus. There should not be any resistance or need to force it. If there is, stop and remove the thermometer.
  3. Hold your child still and calm until the thermometer beeps. Then, remove it and check the reading.

Label your rectal thermometer clearly, because you do not want to use it on another body part.

To take an oral temperature in children ages 4 and older:

  1. Turn on the thermometer
  2. Place the tip of the thermometer under one side of your child's tongue.
  3. Have your child hold the thermometer in place, using their lips to seal around it, not their teeth, until it beeps.

Parents and caregivers must follow instructions provided with forehead and ear thermometers for an accurate reading.

Dr. Bewley suggests retaking a child's temperature if it is lower or higher than you expect it to be to confirm an accurate reading. Contact your doctor if your child is under 3 months of age and has a fever, or if your child's fever rises above 104 degrees at any age.

This could probably go without saying, but clean your thermometer and cover it after each use.

Your Questions, Answered

What thermometer is most accurate?

A digital thermometer that can take a rectal or oral temperature is the most accurate.

What temperature is considered a fever in a child?

A temperature of 100.4 F or higher is considered a fever, according to the AAP.

When should you call a doctor?

Parents should always contact the doctor if:

  • Your child is under 3 months of age and has a fever of 100.4.
  • Your child's fever rises above 104 at any age.

Dr. Bewley adds, "More than any number on the thermometer, the best indication of whether to be concerned is how your child is acting. A seizure, stiff neck, sustained vomiting, trouble breathing, difficulty waking, or severe headache are serious signs and should be evaluated emergently. If the fever is accompanied by sore throat or ear pain, but your child is otherwise acting well, it is also a good idea to call to be seen during business hours. Additionally, although most fevers will go away on their own by three days, if they continue beyond that, even if your child is otherwise doing well, it's a good idea to check in with your doctor."

Who We Are

Ambrosia V. Brody earned a master's in communications from California State University, Fullerton. She is a California-based editor, journalist, and mother to three. She has worked as a professional journalist for more than 16 years. When she isn't writing, you can find her at the library, Starbucks, or the park with her kids.

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