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Pros and cons of thermometers

August 23, 2012  by: Mohamadi Quadri  Points: 12   Category: Health  Earning $0.80   Views: 13352

Health of children is the primary concern of the parents. Fever is the most common cause for illness among children. I hope this pretty information about thermometer would be helpful for loving and care taking parents.



A thermometer is a device used to measure the temperature. The thermometer consists of a temperature sensor, which is very sensitive to temperature change. These sensors help us to find the body temperature of a person. The thermometer is the main thing which can differentiate between a healthy person and sick person. Hence, the usage of right thermometer is very essential. The article below discusses about the pros and cons of different types thermometers.

Mercury glass thermometers

Mechanism: Mercury thermometer consists of a bulb containing mercury attached to a glass tube. The volume of mercury changes slightly with temperature; the small change in volume drives the narrow mercury column a relatively long way up the tube. The temperature is taken by inserting either into the mouth under the tongue, under the armpit (axillary temperature), or into the rectum through the anus (rectal temperature).


• These thermometers have been considered the most accurate liquid-filled types from a long time.
• The thermometers are designed with various shapes; oral bulbs are typically longer and thinner, whereas rectal bulbs are more rounded and shorter. Oral glass thermometers are also commonly used for checking axillary temperature under the arm.
• These thermometers costs low and available easily at medical stores.
• Glass thermometers do not contain batteries, nor require charging. They are small and portable.


• Mercury is toxic heavy metal and the thermometers should be used under supervision.
• Before checking temperature the thermometer should be shaken down (to ensure mercury at normal position), this involve risk of breakage of thermometer resulting in spilling of toxic mercury.
• The thermometer should be placed properly for an appropriate time period; typically it takes longer time to give body temperature compared to digital thermometers.
• The readings should be noted immediately as the thermometer can be affected by environmental temperature. As it does have any mechanism to store the readings.
•It is danger when inserted in the mouth of small kids as there is a risk of the kids, biting/chewing resulting in the breakage of device.

Digital thermometers

Mechanism: This device changes its resistance with changes in temperature. A computer or other circuit measures the resistance and converts it to a temperature, and display it on the screen.


• The temperature can be taken within a short time. The reading can be easily read because they display in numeric values.
• There is no need to follow any time because it gives a beep sound when temperature is constant.
• They don't expose your baby to the mercury as in a glass thermometer.


• The low batteries or dying batteries will provide inaccurate readings.
• These thermometers cannot be washed with warm or soapy water because if the thermometer becomes too wet it works no more.

Ear thermometers

Mechanism: The ear thermometer is a device of achieving infra-red temperature measurement when placed in the auditory canal of a subject.


• The ear thermometer gives the reading within 60 seconds only.
• It is very easy to take the temperature reading of kids without making them to stay still for long time as in mercury thermometers.
• These thermometers are helpful in emergency rooms.


• The researchers found that a temperature of 100.4(Fahrenheit (38(C) measured rectally could range anywhere from 98.6(F (37(C) to 102.6(F (39.2(C) when using an ear thermometer.
• The ear thermometer often gives a false reading, if a child has a ear infection.
• The manufacturer of this device recommends taking 3 readings in a row, and using the highest one for the best level of accuracy.

Forehead thermometers

Mechanism: Forehead thermometer takes the temperature without getting in contact with the body. It uses infrared light for measuring temperature of temporal artery. When the forehead is scanned with the thermometer, the infrared light interacts with temperature of skin and displays the reading on the screen of thermometer.


• The temperature reading can be taken very easily; especially it is helpful in children to take fast and easy reading without making the child uncomfortable.


• It is heat sensitive and slight change in environmental condition affects the reading.
• If one has just had a workout and the body is hot and sweaty, the readings could be affected.
• If the thermometer is brought from a cold room to average room temperature, one has to wait for the thermometer to come to normal.
• These thermometers are very expensive.

Personal experience

Let me narrate how I explored the ambiguity factor related with usage of thermometers. Few months ago, my son was sick; he had stomach infection and fever. We took him to the hospital and doctor gave him fever syrup and a course of antibiotics. But when dosage was completed he still had fever, then doctor extended antibiotic dosage and said we have to admit the child if he is not responding after completing the second dose of antibiotics. Meanwhile, we bought an ear thermometer as my son was uncomfortable with the mercury thermometer; moreover we used to check fever every 4-5 hours. Now, when the dosage was getting completed it was almost 10 days and he had still fever. As there was no apparent reason for the fever, so we thought the ear thermometer may be creating the pain when we insert it in ear frequently. Now we started again checking fever with mercury thermometer and it was normal and at the same instance when we used ear thermometer he had fever, we were confused and now we thought of buying a forehead thermometer as it works without getting in contact with the body.

In anxiety we went to medical store to buy a forehead thermometer. We saw 2-3 patterns of thermometers. To our goodness the lady pharmacist was friendly, she allowed us to test the thermometers. When we checked the fever, one of the thermometers gave reading as normal and other shown fever, even when we used the same thermometer twice it displayed temperature as normal and also fever. The varied digital readings from so called sophisticated forehead thermometer increased our anxiety. Lastly we concluded that the good old mercury thermometers that we were using since many years are the best.


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