Throwing Thermometers

I crept up to the crib and took my sleeping son’s temperature using the ear thermometer—101.8 degrees. Oh my, that’s higher than it was before, I thought, but, it can be hard to get an accurate reading at that awkward angle. Then I left the room and decided to check my own temperature, just to see what the margin of error might be. Beep. Beep. Beep…94.3! Great, so should I add 4 degrees to his temperature? (And call an ambulance?) Or am I subhuman? I was ready to throw the thermometer out the window. This is part of my long journey to find an easy to use AND accurate thermometer.

My collection started with my first son, who hated getting his temp taken and would fight me all the way. After the early days of the rectal thermometer—gross, but accurate—we moved on to the 10 second “stoplight” thermometer that turned from red to yellow to green when it was time to read it. I struggled to keep it in his mouth for even 10 seconds. The winner in this case was a pacifier thermometer—it had a little sensor in the nipple and a button on the outside to press. My orally-fixated toddler had no trouble with that. And I was satisfied—until the battery wore out.

In the past five years, I’ve bought numerous digital thermometers, ear thermometers and temporal forehead scanning ones, too. I’ve even put them on my Christmas wish list—this is an expensive “hobby” to have. I’d heard such good things about the temporal one, and that’s what the pediatricians use. But, it’s not been great for me. I still get the low readings of 97 degrees. Or, after pressing it against their forehead and counting up
to 10, I end up with nothing because it was off. Or, the beeping makes them wiggle. Or I don’t make the right angle turn on the forehead
 to the hairline quite right. So I’ve done it again. Then, best of three. How about best of five? This is getting ridiculous.

I finally bit the bullet and bought an expensive ear thermometer that some other moms recommended. You just have to pull on the ear lobe and push it in firmly. Ha! Try doing that to a kid with a double ear infection. After several wonky readings, I tried it on my husband. He flinched and yowled and said, “No way!” Can this really be a product designed with kids in mind?

Well, there’s always rectal thermometers, I guess—which is the way my mom, who is a nurse, did it for a long time. But I feel that there’s a certain age where that becomes uncomfortable for everyone—somewhere around 1 or 2. Adding in a kid who is not feeling well and it’s really a battle (I’ve never been comfortable with that anyway). So, my collection grows, unless you have any advice? Feel free to submit your thermometer recommendations to and save this mom some trouble!

About the author

Natalie Miller Moore

Natalie runs Moore than Words, a health communications consulting firm in Williamsburg. She loves to learn and write about health, particularly relating to patient experience and research.