Hit by a flu or virus? Keep track of your body temperature with one of these thermometers.
Updated Feb. 14, 2024 1:51 a.m. PT
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Sarah MitroffManaging Editor
Sarah Mitroff is a Managing Editor for CNET, overseeing our health, fitness and wellness section. Throughout her career, she's written about mobile tech, consumer tech, business and startups for Wired, MacWorld, PCWorld, and VentureBeat.
A flu thermometer is a simple device, but there are still good ones, and not so good ones. When you're sick, you want a reliable option. That's why we've tested several of the top thermometer models on the market, from $10 to $100. We've also tested the methods of measuring temperature to pick the best thermometer for you, your children and the whole family. Following the pandemic, it's become more important than ever to have a thermometer in your medicine cabinet.
Thermometers have come a long way since the glass mercury thermometer that I (and I'm sure at least some of you) had as a kid. Many options on the market now come with added bells and whistles, like smart thermometers that can connect to an app to log temperature over time, and give you a holistic view of your health. They also have improved accuracy, and you can usually get an instant read. No matter how you want to take your temperature (in the mouth, with a forehead thermometer, with a baby thermometer, in the armpit, with a contactless thermometer or in the ear canal) there's a model out there for you.
Withings' Thermo is undoubtedly the sleekest model I tested, but also the most expensive. This instant read thermometer takes temporal readings, meaning you swipe it across your forehead and it captures your body temperature from your temporal artery. The Thermo doesn't even need to make contact with your skin -- it can be up to half an inch away -- which makes it one of the most hygienic options and you won't have to disturb your sleeping kid to take their temperature with this forehead thermometer.
The Thermo has 16 infrared sensors that capture several thousand temperature readings at once -- meaning this smart thermometer takes a super accurate temperature reading. I like that the Thermo is also ridiculously easy to use -- when it's done recording measurements, it vibrates twice -- no obnoxious beep. You will need to use the Thermo app to set up the thermometer and see a history of readings, but the app is not required to take your temperature. Further, the display on this thermometer is extremely easy to read.
This thermometer isn't rechargeable -- it requires two AAA batteries, but the battery life is about two years.
Look, I get that a nearly $100 instant read thermometer seems absurd to most people, but the sleek design and dead-simple ease of use (about a million times easier than an oral thermometer and about a zillion times easier than a rectal one) make the Thermo a worthwhile choice if that price doesn't scare you off.
The Kinsa was one of the first smart thermometers on the market, and its products are designed with kids in mind. The Smart Ear thermometer connects to the Kinsa app on your phone to keep a log of each temperature reading, so you can keep tabs on how a fever is progressing.
The app also offers care advice with each reading -- like making sure you or your kid is getting enough fluids -- and provides information on when you need to see a doctor or go to the ER. You can also tell the app when you took or administered medication to bring the fever down.
The Kinsa thermometer takes temperature in under two seconds, which will help getting an accurate reading on a squirmy kid who doesn't want to sit still. One of the only downsides to this digital ear thermometer is that you need the Kinsa app to set up the thermometer -- so if you aren't keen on logging your temperature data in an app, skip this model for one of the other ways to measure temperature on this list.
Braun's ear thermometer reminds me of the type of thermometer I encountered as a kid at the pediatrician -- back when in-ear models weren't available at home. This older school design feels a tad dated compared to Withings' or Kinsa's models, but it works just as well.
This infrared thermometer makes it easy to measure the temperature of infants under 1 month old all the way to adults. There are three preset age ranges you can choose from when taking your temperature: Up to 3 months, 3 to 36 months, and 36 months and up. The infrared technology thermometer stores up to four recent readings and takes your temperature in just a few seconds.
My biggest knock against the ThermScan 7 is that you have to use disposable plastic probe covers in order to take a temperature reading. The thermometer knows if the plastic cover is missing and won't work until you put one on. Kinsa's model, in comparison, works without any cover. However, in talking to a colleague who uses this thermometer, he says he doesn't mind the probe covers because he doesn't have to clean the thermometer before taking his kid's temperature.
If you're set on getting a classic oral, armpit thermometer or rectal thermometer, Vick's model has everything you need and a little more. It has a large, clear backlit screen display that glows different colors when your body temperature measure is normal, elevated or you have a fever.
It comes with a plastic cover, it's easy to clean (key for an oral and/or rectal thermometer) and provides reliable and accurate readings -- I couldn't ask for more with this type of thermometer, especially when I'm taking a child's temperature. While I tested the Speed Read model, I'd also recommend the Vicks ComfortFlex Digital Thermometer. It's the same thermometer but has a flexible probe, which makes it more comfortable for oral temperature readings than other types of stick thermometers.
The iProven Forehead and Ear thermometer is the most versatile of all of the options on this list. Its probe can take your temperature from your forehead and ear, plus it can measure surface and air temperature. That means you can check to see if your baby or kid's bath water isn't too hot or record the ambient room temperature.
This thermometer stores up to 35 temperature readings, which is impressive but also unnecessary -- especially because there's no way to assign those temperatures to individual people.
My gripe with this thermometer is that the temperature readings were less consistent than other models I tested, and an accurate reading is kinda the whole point of a thermometer. Depending on where on my forehead I pointed it, I got different results each time, ranging from 96.0 to 98.0 degrees F. By comparison, the Withings Thermo consistently gave me readings between 98.3 and 99.1 degrees F. This is because the iProven model will take a reading wherever you point it, so if it's not pointed at your temporal artery, you might get inaccurate readings.
Testing it against the two other ear thermometers on this list, the Braun and Kinsa, I again got inconsistent results, despite following the directions from the user manual and taking care to place the probe in my ear in the same position and angle each time. Both Braun and Kinsa gave me consistent readings with only a few tenths of a degree difference.
In theory, the SmartTemp Wireless Thermometer is a good idea. In execution, not so much. Rather than have a display on the actual device, it connects to an app on your phone to display temperature readings. Setting aside that app is visually dated and clunky, I hate that the thermometer is useless without it. There's no way to take your temperature without opening the app, and what good is a thermometer if it alone cannot measure temperature?
It's also $10 more than the Vicks Speed Read. I could go on, but I won't. Just skip this thermometer.
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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.