What is a Forehead Thermometer?

Tamara Elliott

The old standbys of oral and rectal thermometers are being phased out and replaced by new technology. One of the newer methods for evaluating a person’s fever is the forehead thermometer. These come in two different forms: a strip placed on the forehead, or a temporal artery thermometer. The strip form of forehead thermometer has been around for a few years now but the temporal artery thermometer is a newer invention.

A forehead thermometer is a newer method for evaluating a person's fever.
A forehead thermometer is a newer method for evaluating a person's fever.

The forehead strip thermometer, developed in the 1990’s, is a disposable strip of plastic with liquid crystals embedded into the strip. To take a person’s temperature, one places the strip against the person’s forehead. The liquid crystals react with the temperature of the skin. After waiting anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes, depending on the brand, the crystals will change color. The thermometers have a number line that shows the temperature based on the color displayed. These are great for use with infants and young children. Keep in mind, though, studies have shown that this type of forehead thermometer is not always accurate. It will, however, give you an idea whether or not the child has a fever.

More invasive thermometers will have a more accurate reading than forehead thermometers.
More invasive thermometers will have a more accurate reading than forehead thermometers.

A temporal artery thermometer uses infrared light to measure a person’s temperature. To use the device, one scans the thermometer over the temple of the person with the fever. The thermometer then uses an infrared light to read the temperature of the skin over an artery located in the temple. The handset has an electronic window that displays the temperature. These thermometers read the person’s temperature very quickly and are usually pretty accurate. These, too would be great for babies and children. However, cost can be a concern.

Forehead thermometer strips can cost from $9.95 United Stated Dollars (USD) up to $600 USD per box. The cost depends on the number of strips, manufacturer, and accuracy of the product. Infrared forehead thermometers can cost between $30 USD and $150 USD. Be sure to think about who will be using the thermometer and the accuracy that is needed when deciding on a product.

Whether using a liquid crystal forehead thermometer or an infrared scan forehead thermometer, children as well as others will appreciate the comfort and convenience of this technology. They decrease the stress placed on a patient, especially children, when taking their temperature. Each type has its pros and cons, so be sure to research each one before buying to ensure the product meets the needs of the patient.

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Discussion Comments


@MissDaphne - I use a probe thermometer, too. I wanted an ear thermometer but didn't want to pay quite that much.

I keep reading that with a baby, a rectal temperature is just the only really accurate option. But my pediatrician said I could just do an armpit temperature. Now that he's getting bigger, I can just give him a little acetaminophen, but the ped. said that when he was really tiny (first month, I think), if the armpit reading showed a fever, I should call the office ASAP and not worry about trying a rectal temp. Fever in a newborn is a big deal!


I'm pretty sure that my mom had one of these in the early or mid 1980s that she used to use to take my temperature sometimes. I sure liked it better than holding it under my tongue! But with the accuracy concerns, it almost seems like you might just as well put your hand on the kid's forehead! (That's what I do as a teacher to sort of pre-screen the kids for the school nurse :-) ).

For my baby, I use a regular probe thermometer. Not as easy to use, but it's accurate and the price was right.

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