A fever thermometer is an extremely practical tool for measuring fever levels, particularly in children who often don't have the same ability to communicate how they feel when they are ill. There is a wide range of fever thermometers and they can have different properties. The actual measurement procedure can vary between measuring in the ear, mouth, on the forehead, in the armpit or rectally. In our test of thermometers, we have taken the user's perspective and focus on how the thermometer feels to use. In addition to how reliable the results are, we have also looked at how quick the thermometer is and assess the other functions and properties it has. We have looked in particular at whether the thermometer has buttons or other parts made of rubber. This is because rubber does not tolerate disinfectant well and over time can dry out and crack. Disinfecting a fever thermometer is probably more common within the healthcare sector than in private homes, but it is also a hygiene aspect that the nurses who carried out these tests felt it was worth assessing.
We carry out all of our tests ourselves and test all products as they are intended to be used in reality. In our test of fever thermometers, we asked a registered nurse to use the thermometers, both at work and as a parent of small children. To determine whether the thermometers were reliable, we have used them as instructed and compared the results between them. All of them showed the same temperature within an error margin of +/- 0.3 °C, except for one thermometer which showed 1.5 °C lower. Other than the measurement result, we have also examined following:
Functions: Does the thermometer have an automatic shut-off, is there a battery indicator and can previous measurements be saved?
Use: How do you measure with the thermometer, what do the buttons feel like and can the sound be switched off so that sleeping children aren't woken by the signal?
Hygiene: Is there a disposable cover for the thermometer, can it be sprayed with disinfectant or cleaned in some other way?
In addition to this we have also compared the thermometer's design and functions against its price, and then selected the test winner.
The Braun NTF3000 is what's known as a "no touch" thermometer, which measures the temperature via a lens aimed at the forehead. The method sounds unsound but our measurement results were just as reliable as with other types of thermometer. The Braun NTF3000 feels solid and has buttons that are easy to find even in a dark room. The measurement button is rubber covered – which gives a good grip but feels slightly less hygienic than a plastic button. However, it has a very clear response to pressure. The accompanying instructions for where to measure on the forehead are easy to understand. The Braun NTF3000 has a light display, which makes measurement at night time possible, and a colour indicator denoting increased temperature and fever. You can turn off the sound, which is practical if you are taking the temperature of a sleeping child. The disadvantage with a forehead thermometer is that it's difficult to measure a moving child, but the advantages outweigh this. The Braun NTF3000 is easy to use and is our selection for Best in Test.
The Tommee Tippee thermometer has a small, narrow measuring probe which makes it optimal to use in the ear of even small children or babies. The thermometer comes with a hygiene cover and a ring to be used to attach the protection to the thermometer. Unfortunately there is no storage for these protective devices, which increases the risk that they will disappear among everything else in the bathroom cabinet. It's good that there is a hygiene cover, and you can buy them separately. However, they are rather fiddly to remove after use. The Tommee Tippee fever thermometer is a useful, comfortable size. It's clear when you have pressed the button as you can feel and hear it. However, the button is rubber covered, which is a negative point if you want to use a disinfectant spray on it after use in cases of gastroenteritis. The thermometer provides clear results and when the temperature indicates fever it makes an audible signal. However, you can't set it to silent mode. The Tommee Tippee Digital Fever Thermometer feels like a classic ear thermometer that lives up to all of our expectations.
The Chicco Comfort Quick Infrared is a digital ear thermometer in a good format, with a size that's just right for an adult hand. The thermometer also includes a storage case which has space for both the thermometer and for hygiene covers. This ear thermometer quickly measures the temperature and signals fever with an audible signal. For the forgetful, it also displays the previous measured temperature. However, you can't turn off the sound completely, which is a function we think should be present given the price of the thermometer. The Chicco Comfort Quick has on and off buttons on one side and the scan button on the other. There is a slight risk that if you're in a hurry you might use the wrong one if you don't double check first. The buttons are relatively small but have a positive feel when you press them. This is a straightforward, reliable and easy-to-use thermometer, although it's rather expensive. Being able to completely turn off the sound would have improved our opinion of the Chicco Comfort Quick Infrared.
Braun have a number of different thermometers in their range, which can be found in many family medical cabinets. The Thermoscan IRT 6020 is a budget class thermometer – if you like the brand but want more functions we recommend model 6520 instead. This model has a clear display with large figures. A hygiene cover is included and more can be purchased separately. They are easy to attach and it's just as easy to remove one when it's time to replace it. However, the measurement time is relatively long and the thermometer beeps when it measures. It isn't possible to switch off the sound. The actual thermometer is relatively large – bordering on cumbersome – but it's easy to find the button without having to look. However, the actual button is relatively shallow. The Braun Thermoscan IRT 6020 doesn't disappoint but we felt it was lacking that little extra in the form of a few more intelligent functions.
The NUK 2in1 can measure the temperature both in the ear and on the forehead. It can also be used to measure room temperature. The actual thermometer is small and easy to hold in your hand, with a good, clear button. It includes a storage case, which is very practical when the thermometer isn't in use. You can switch off the sound completely. The thermometer tip goes red if the temperature measured exceeds 37.5 °C – if the value is lower it stays green. However, the measurement time is relatively long which is a big negative point if you have children who don't like sitting still or being held. In addition, after only a short period of use the thermometer stopped working and displayed an error message. After careful examination of the manual, we discovered that the lens has to be completely clean for the thermometer to work at all. Given such sensitivity, it would have been useful if there was disposable protection for the NUK 2in1, but unfortunately this isn't the case. Problems of this type are what gave us a poorer overall impression of the thermometer.
The idea of a forehead thermometer is good, as there are many uses for this type of temperature measurement. As well as measuring body temperature, you can also use the Omrom Gentle Temp 720 to measure the temperature of various surfaces, which can give a good indication of whether baby food or formula is ready to serve. The Gentle Temp 720 gives a very good first impression. It's easy to use, with two clear buttons - one to turn the thermometer on and to see saved values, and another to start the temperature reading. The thermometer shuts off automatically. It can be set on silent and has a large display, which makes it easy to read. The thermometer sits nicely in the hand and has a substantial probe cover that's easy to remove.
The Omron Gentle Temp 720 should be held 3-5 cm from the forehead. Measurement is quick - it only takes a second. The difficulty with the procedure is making sure the actual measurement has been done correctly. Omron recommends that you take three temperature measurements one after each other, and if you've held the Gentle Temp 720 for too long there's also a risk of false lower values. This is because the thermometer measures a higher surrounding temperature. A forehead thermometer can work very well on adults and sleeping children, and it's a major plus that it's contactless, which reduces the risk of transferring bacteria. But for parents of small, restless children, it's worth knowing that you need to have the right conditions to get the right measurement values. So whether or not you like the Omron Gentle Temp 720 as a fever thermometer entirely depends on how you plan to use it.
The Omron Gentle Temp 521 is a straightforward ear thermometer with an illuminated display, allowing you to easily see the value displayed at all times of the day and night. This function is often very useful for parents of small children, as they may need to take the temperature of their child at night and don't want to wake them up by turning on the lamp. Another equally useful function is that you can completely switch off the sound. Measurement is fast and the result is perceived as reliable. As well as measuring the temperature inside the ear, the Omron Gentle Temp 521 can also measure the temperature of a surface, for a quick answer as to whether a jar of food or a bottle is sufficiently cool.
The thermometer includes 21 probe covers and these are close to the measurement sensor, which also makes it easier to obtain a correct value. A small plastic ring is used to put the probe covers on, and we suspect that it's easy to lose this - particularly as the thermometer doesn't include a storage case. The actual measuring probe of the thermometer feels a bit blocky inside the ear, so it's perhaps not the most comfortable thermometer for small ears. But the primary negative point about the thermometer is the fact that Omron have chosen to power it using a small watch battery. If the battery runs out during a period of illness, it's not likely that you'll have another one lying around in a kitchen drawer. In general, the Omron Gentle Temp 521 is an effective and highly usable thermometer that does its job well.
Type: Ear thermometer Price class: Medium Battery: C32032, included in purchase Memory function: Yes, last 25 measured values Silent mode: Yes
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