Different Types of Thermometers & Who Uses Them

Retail vs Medically Graded

When it comes to the different kinds of thermometers, largely speaking, they can be grouped into two categories: retail thermometers or medically graded thermometers.

Retail Thermometers

Retail thermometers can be found in pharmacies or some online retailers. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a rise in the sale of retail thermometers, with many new products entering the market. However, it must be kept in mind that retail thermometers were not designed for or intended to be used to diagnose or make medical decisions. Furthermore, some of these retail infrared thermometers were never intended to measure human temperature. The MHRA has warned against the use of such retail thermometers that were designed for non-medical purposes. This is because retail thermometers do not offer the same level of accuracy and quality as medically graded thermometers.

Medically Graded Thermometers

It is essential that if a thermometer is to be used in a medical or clinical setting the device must be certified for quality. All medical devices, including thermometers, must comply with several regulations and guidelines. This ensures the device is robust and provides accurate information which enables healthcare professionals to make medical decisions or diagnoses.

To be used in the EU, medical thermometers much have the appropriate CE marking (EU Directive 93/42/EC). This demonstrates that the manufacturer has ensured the device meets EU safety, health and environmental requirements and is an indicator of a product’s compliance with EU legislation.

Types of Medical Thermometers

There are a range of medical thermometers on the market including contact thermometers such as axilla or tympanic and non-contact infrared thermometers.

Non-Contact Thermometers

With innovations in technology, medical non-contact thermometers are becoming more prevalent in the marketplace. Offering optimal infection control non-contact thermometers remove the risk of cross-contamination. Non-contacts also offer plastic reduction and cost-saving opportunities as unlike most other medical thermometers on the market, non-contact thermometers require zero single-use plastics.

Non-contact thermometers such as TRITEMP™, capture the infrared energy naturally emitted from the forehead and convert it to core body temperature. The forehead offers an optimal site for temperature measurement as it is easily cleared of any obstacles (e.g. hats or hair) and is easily accessible. These forehead thermometers remove unnecessary contact with patients ensuring increased patient comfort. Non-contact thermometers are also useful as they have no age restrictions or limitations as to who the device can be used on.

Tympanic Thermometers

One of the most commonly used methods of temperature measurement in Europe, tympanic thermometers capture infrared energy emitted from the ear canal and convert this into body temperature. Once positioned in the ear, tympanic thermometers take approximately a minute per reading.

Although one of the most common methods of temperature measurement it is important to note tympanic devices are not suitable for children under 2 years old. Furthermore, there can be difficulty obtaining accurate core body measurements from tympanic devices as obstacles such as hair or wax are not easily identifiable or removable.

Axilla Thermometers

Another common method of temperature measurement is the axilla, which takes the patient’s temperature from the armpit. The probe of the thermometer is placed under the arm and held in position for up between 1 to 3 minutes depending on the device. This method of temperature measurement is commonly used for children and small babies.

However, it is particularly difficult to obtain accurate readings with this method and often the readings are not a true reflection of core body temperature. A patient’s movement can impact the reading making it difficult to use on children who are prone to shifting the thermometer out of place. This method can also cause some disturbance to patients as it requires the removal of clothing, and they can experience some discomfort in the process.

Rectal Thermometers

Another method of temperature measurement is the rectal method. Although this method has been steadily decreasing in its use, some clinicians still recommend its use for newborns or young children.

This method is not incredibly popular for the obvious discomfort it causes the patient. This method also poses a significant infection risk and should never be used on patients who have a low or weakened immune system.


As described, there are a wide variety of thermometers on the market. When selecting a thermometer, it is important to bear in mind the needs of the ward and the patient and consider where and on who it will be used.

If you would like any additional information please contact info@trimedika.com

Disclaimer: This blog article does not constitute advice for Healthcare Professionals. It is written as a guide only and should not be constituted as advice. Healthcare Professionals should ensure they receive adequate training different thermometers and use sources of information from regulated bodies, appropriate to their professions.

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