What Is the Best Forehead Thermometer?

Thermometers have long been an essential diagnostic tool, and they are having another moment in the spotlight due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Having a high temperature is one of the more common coronavirus symptoms, and most adults can take someone's temperature without prior medical experience. Non-contact forehead thermometers, in particular, are getting a lot of attention since they do not require physical contact with a patient. This process ultimately reduces the risk of contamination. To help you decide on the best forehead thermometer, we'll explain the difference between contact and non-contact models. We'll also briefly compare forehead thermometers to other types.

gurin infrared thermometer from allheart

Contact vs. Non-Contact Thermometers

Forehead thermometers are officially called temporal artery thermometers, and they take a temperature by measuring the infrared heat coming off the temporal artery in the forehead. They come in a couple of different shapes. One of the most popular options integrates the sensor into the handle and looks a bit like an electric razor. Another popular model extends the sensor further out from the handle and looks a bit like a gun. Some models have to be placed directly on the temporal artery to take a reading, while others do not. If you really want a non-contact forehead thermometer, make sure to read the label carefully before purchasing. Even if the forehead thermometer does not require contact to work, you should still sanitize between each use to keep yourself and others safe. It’s important to note that while forehead thermometers have some great perks — namely, non-contact readings and fast turnaround times — they aren’t as accurate as traditional thermometers that take temperatures orally or rectally. In other words, a forehead thermometer might say that someone has a fever when they don’t, or that they don’t have a fever when they do. It’s better to think of these temperature readings as ballpark estimates rather than a precise number.

different types of thermometers on blue wooden surface

Other Types of Thermometers

As discussed, some types of thermometers require contact to work, but they deliver more accurate temperature readings. If accuracy is important to you, you might want to experiment with a different type of thermometer. Other types of thermometers that you should know about are:

  • Digital thermometers: Digital thermometers take temperatures using a metal probe and display temperature readings on a digital screen (hence the name). They can be used to take temperatures orally (in the mouth), rectally (in the bottom) and axillary (under the arm). Digital thermometers come in two different designs. One type is a single piece with a handle that tapers down to the probe. The other type has a corded probe that separates from the main unit. The latter design is more expensive and more durable.
  • Electronic ear thermometers: These models are similar to forehead thermometers in that they measure infrared heat to assess temperature. They work a bit faster than digital thermometers, and they are often easier to hold in place on wiggling kids and babies. However, temperature results may not be accurate for infants three months old or less due to their smaller ear canals. Electronic ear thermometers may also deliver inaccurate results for anybody with ear wax, which can interfere with the infrared sensors.
  • Other types of thermometers: Digital thermometers and electronic ear thermometers are very popular, but there are several other options: digital pacifier thermometers for infants, plastic fever “strip” thermometers and glass and mercury thermometers (which are now being phased out due to potential toxicity). While these thermometers have their place, digital thermometers, electronic ear thermometers and forehead thermometers are the three main options you are likely to choose

Choosing a thermometer isn’t as straightforward a decision as it may seem on the surface. You will have several options. Before making your selection, consider the importance of accuracy, speed, price and non-contact readings. If you’ve decided that you’d like a medical grade forehead thermometer, you can shop our collection and choose the right model for your needs.