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Updated: 1 Mar 2022

Best digital thermometers 2022: Which? Best Buys and expert buying advice

What you need to know to buy a no-fuss digital thermometer for your baby or child.
Hannah Fox
Baby having temperature taken with no contact digital thermometer

Digital thermometers are placed in the ear or use no-contact readings. They've been designed to make the process of taking a child's temperature less invasive and quicker than old school temperature thermometers

If you have one of these old thermometers kicking around you should no longer use it (they're often filled with mercury) and upgrade to one of the different types of digital thermometer – which type will depend on your needs and your budget. 

The NHS also doesn't advise using strip-type forehead thermometers for gaining an accurate reading as they show the temperature of the skin rather than the body.

Find out what features digital thermometers can offer and whether they're easy to use by reading our digital thermometer reviews.

Digital ear thermometers

Ear thermometers (also known as tympanic thermometers) are designed so that they disturb babies as little as possible, even allowing parents to take their baby's temperature when he or she is asleep.

They take a reading after a second or two, using infrared to measure the heat generated inside the ear.

The reading may not be accurate if the thermometer isn't correctly placed in the ear and earwax can also affect the accuracy. 

These types of digital thermometer shouldn't be used with newborns as their ear canals are too small.

Digital ear thermometer features to look out for

  • Good ear thermometers need to be simple to use on even the most wriggly children. Simple one touch operation is best so you don't have to reach for the instruction manual in the small hours of the morning. 
  • Look for models with backlights so you can read the results without turning lights on.
  • Some in-ear thermometers require you to buy disposable probe covers, which is hygienic but an additional cost to consider.

Related: what rash is this? 

Infrared no-contact thermometers

Even newer to the scene than ear thermometers are infrared no-contact thermometers. 

These are usually simply pointed at a child's forehead (usually at a distance of around 5cm, but this can vary from brand to brand) and give a reading very quickly. 

They're obviously appealing to parents as you may not even have to disturb your sleeping child to get a measurement.

No-contact thermometer features to look out for

A great infrared no-contact thermometer should be easy to use and quick to give a measurement

A back light for seeing readings in the dark and a traffic-light system to indicate a fever are popular features. 

Some also have the ability to measure room and surface (ie liquid) temperatures.

Another advantage is that they are hygienic and don't require probe covers like some ear thermometers do, although you must make sure you keep the infrared sensor clean.

Find out what our parent testers thought of different thermometers in our first look digital thermometer reviews.

Smart digital thermometers

Some thermometers can now be connected up to apps on your smartphone or tablet so that you can store a larger database of past readings or connect up to health advice.

Best Buy digital thermometers

    • best buy

    This multi-purpose thermometer provides accurate temperature readings and has useful features, such as a memory function and silent mode. It's simple to operate and is highly rated for how comfortable it is during use.

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    Full Access first month £2.99, then £9.99 per month, cancel at any time

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    • best buy

    This impressive thermometer displays accurate temperature readings in under two seconds. It also scores a maximum five stars for ease of use, which is reassuring given the spread of features and functions it has.

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    Full Access first month £2.99, then £9.99 per month, cancel at any time

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How to spot a high temperature

All of these types of digital thermometers may need to be used in slightly different ways to obtain accurate readings, so it's important you read the instructions carefully and familiarise yourself with using the thermometer for when you really need it. 

For example, some no-contact thermometers require scanning across the forehead and others work by aiming at one point.

Both thermometer and patient should be given time to acclimatise to the environment that they're in if there's been a significant change in temperature.

When using no-contact thermometers, hair must be pushed back off the forehead and any perspiration wiped away.

Where to buy a digital thermometer

When buying a digital thermometer, make sure you're handing your money over to a reputable seller. Check the retailer's returns policy and pay attention to customer feedback and reviews. For more details on shopping online safely and arranging refunds for faulty products, see our advice on shopping online

Boots, Argos, Amazon and Superdrug are some of the most searched-for digital thermometer retailers at the time of writing. We’ve included links to these retailers handpicked because of their stock availability, best value price or warranty options. 

  • Boots – stocks a handful of digital thermometers priced around £15 or more. You can earn Boots reward points on your Advantage card and delivery is free when you spend over £30. Boots also scored well in our annual retailer survey for beauty, health and wellbeing shops.
  • Argos – offers a wide selection of digital thermometers from brands including Braun, Dreambaby, Kinetik Wellbeing and Tommee Tippee. Prices range from just £10 for basic models and go up to around £60. You can get same day in-store collection at selected Sainsbury's stores and if you collect Nectar points, you'll get 2 for every £1 you spend. 
  • Amazon – has thousands of digital thermometers in stock, but try to stick to models that are fulfilled by or sold by Amazon if you can – it’s much easier to resolve issues if something goes wrong. It's also advisable to stick to brands that you recgonise, or look reputable from a search online. You'll get free delivery on most orders if you're a prime member, too. 
  • Superdrug – offers a modest range of digital thermometers to suit all budgets. Brands include Braun, Kinetik Wellbeing, Tommee Tippee and Vital Baby. You can get free home delivery when you spend over £15 or free same day in-store collection and you can collect points on the Superdrug Health and Beauty card. 

Coronavirus update - June 2021

If you're worried that your baby or child has contracted Covid-19, check if he or she is running a fever. You can find out if their temperature is high by reading our guide to what should a baby's temperature be?.

A fever in adults is generally considered to be 37.8C or higher.