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What is the best thermometer for your child?

November 25, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
When your child's temperature is rising, the first thing you need to do is get a reading. If you've done this before, you may have noticed you get different readings with different thermometers. Are you doing something wrong? Or is there something wrong with the thermometer? Pediatricians say it could be a little bit of both.Therese Delashmutt was really worried about her son Gabe when he came down with a recent bug.

"He had the stomach flu and was throwing up. We didn't know what it was," said Delashmutt.

But there was no way he'd keep a thermometer under his tongue or his arm for that matter. Delashmutt tried almost everything.

"We tried each one. A new one every time he got sick and when it didn't work we'd try another one," said Delashmutt.

There are so many options out there. The NIH is conducting a study comparing the accuracy of oral, ear, forehead or temporal thermometers. The American Academy of Pediatrics no longer recommends the old-fashioned mercury models for environmental reasons.

But when it comes to digital devices, experts say choosing one has more to do with the age than type of thermometer. For kids under 6 months, doctors recommend a rectal thermometer for accuracy.

"The most accurate way to do it is through a rectal thermometer, but a lot of parents don't want to do that on a regular basis if the baby might not be that sick," said Dr. Jennifer Shu from the American Academy of Pediatrics. "So it's perfectly fine to do an underarm thermometer."

If the child is older than six months, you can try an ear thermometer or the temporal type. That's the method that worked for Delashmutt.

"At first he was hesitant and then he was all about holding his hair up," said Delashmutt.

There are also forehead strips, pacifier type models, even some that light up for easy readings in the dark. The AAP says don't worry if one type is a degree or two off from another method. The key is to tell your doctor how the fever was figured.

"Tell us how you did it. Try not to do any adding or subtracting at home and we'll just take the whole picture into account," said Dr. Shu.

Delashmutt was sick of trying options and she's glad she found something effective and easy.

"When your kid is sick you're running around cleaning up after them," said Delashmutt. "To have one less thing to worry about is awesome."

One more piece of advice from the doctor: Don't just consider fever in how sick a child is. You also want to observe changes, alertness, sleeping and eating habits when you decide if your child needs a doctor.


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