Updated January 2022
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Buying guide for best forehead thermometers

When your child is sick, determining whether or not a fever is present — and how high it might be — can help you decide whether you can treat the issue yourself or need to consult with your doctor. Several different types of thermometers can effectively take a temperature, but you’ll get the quickest, easiest reading from a forehead thermometer.

A forehead thermometer uses infrared technology to measure the heat emitted by the temporal artery in the forehead. Most models require gently pressing the probe to the temple to get a reading, but there are also noncontact models that only require holding the thermometer a couple of inches from the forehead.

But if you want to be sure that you’re getting accurate temperature readings, it’s important to choose the right forehead thermometer. That means deciding whether you want a thermometer that can be used multiple ways, how quickly you need your reading, and what other features will make the thermometer as easy as possible to use.

Fortunately, our helpful guide has all the tips, tricks, and product recommendations you need to take the confusion out of shopping for the perfect forehead thermometer.

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If a newborn under three months of age has a fever according to a forehead thermometer, contact your pediatrician right away to make sure it’s not a serious issue.

Key considerations

Contact vs. Noncontact

Contact forehead thermometers that require you to press a probe tip to the forehead or temple are typically more accurate than noncontact models. Contact models usually provide faster readings, too. They’re also an ideal option for taking your own temperature.

Noncontact forehead thermometers, however, are less likely to disturb a sleeping child, because you only have to hold it 1 to 6 inches from the forehead and scan it across the forehead to get a reading. Also, minimal disinfection is needed if you’re using the thermometer for multiple people, because there’s no actual contact with the skin.

Multifunction thermometer vs. single-function thermometer

While all forehead thermometers can provide a temperature reading via the forehead, some models actually allow you to take readings in other ways as well. You can find thermometers with both forehead and ear modes, so you’re able to scan the forehead or insert the probe into the ear canal to take a temperature.

Ear temperature readings can sometimes be more accurate, but inserting the probe into the ear isn’t advised for newborns and can disturb children who are sleeping. With a multifunction thermometer, you can switch between the two temperature-taking modes depending on your needs.

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Did you know?
Some forehead thermometers have a connected app that allows you to keep track of users’ temperatures on your smartphone, so it’s easier to provide accurate information to your doctor.


Speed of response

When you’re not feeling well or you’re taking a squirming child’s temperature, you want a forehead thermometer that can provide a temperature reading as quickly as possible. Some models need as little as one second to provide a reading, while others may take up to ten seconds to display a temperature.

It’s important to keep in mind that a longer response time can often mean a more accurate reading, though, so you may want to sacrifice speed for greater accuracy.

Backlit display

To be able to clearly read a detected temperature, it’s important to choose a forehead thermometer with a large, easy-to-read display. However, if you want to be able to read temperatures in low lighting or even in the dark, opt for a model with a backlit display to provide enough illumination to easily see the numbers no matter how dark the room is.


Forehead thermometers rely on batteries, which can run out quickly if you forget to turn the thermometer off after taking a temperature. Some models are equipped with an auto-shutoff feature, though, to prolong your battery’s life. In most cases, the thermometer automatically shuts itself off if it isn’t touched in ten to 30 seconds.

Fever alert

To make monitoring for fevers even easier, some forehead thermometers feature a fever alert to let you know when the detected temperature is above the normal reading. A model may offer a visual alert on the screen, provide an audible alert by beeping, or use both types of alerts.

Memory function

Some forehead thermometers offer a memory function, which stores previous temperature readings for future reference. This allows you to keep track of trends in the readings, so you know if your child’s temperature is going up or coming down. Some models allow you to store up to 20 temperatures at a time.

Age and temperature technology

A normal temperature reading can differ depending on a person’s age, particularly for babies and the elderly. Some forehead thermometers allow you to enter a user’s age, so it can instantly tell you if the temperature is in a dangerous range for that particular person.

Forehead thermometer prices

Inexpensive: The most affordable forehead thermometers are usually models that require contact with the forehead to register a reading, take five or more seconds to read a temperature, and don’t offer much in the way of special features. They typically range from $10 to $20 and are a good option if you’ve never used a forehead thermometer before and want a basic model to get started with.

Mid-range: Forehead thermometers that don’t require contact with the forehead are usually a bit more expensive, but they can provide readings in as little as three seconds and offer special features like a fever alert, auto-shutoff, and memory function. They usually cost between $20 and $35 and are an ideal choice if you want one that works as efficiently as possible.

Expensive: Ranging from $35 to $60, the most expensive forehead thermometers don’t require contact with the forehead and also allow you to take a temperature with an ear probe. They can provide a reading in as little as a second and offer a variety of special features, including a fever alert, auto-shutoff, memory function, and age and temperature technology.

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Did you know?
Some forehead thermometers require you to scan the thermometer across the entire forehead to get a reading, while others simply call for you to place the thermometer in the center and hold it there.


  • Always read the instructions that come with your forehead thermometer carefully before using it. Each model may have different safety precautions.

  • Before using a forehead thermometer, check that the forehead is clean and dry. Dirt and moisture on the skin may affect the reading.

  • Make sure that the user has been inside the house for at least 30 minutes before using a forehead thermometer. Exposure to extreme heat or cold outdoors may alter your body temperature temporarily.

  • For the best results, both the user and the forehead thermometer should be exposed to the same ambient temperature for approximately ten minutes before taking a temperature.

  • Contact forehead thermometers are usually easier to use when you’re taking your own temperature.

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New research suggests that forehead thermometers can be reliable for infants three months and under, which makes them an effective alternative to rectal thermometers.


Q. How accurate are forehead thermometers?
A. A forehead thermometer usually provides readings that are one-half to 1 degree lower than an oral thermometer would. However, because a forehead model provides its readings by measuring the heat from the temporal artery in the forehead, and arterial temperature is often the most accurate indicator of body temperature, many medical professionals feel forehead thermometers provide highly accurate results.

Q. Is it necessary to sanitize a forehead thermometer?
A. While a forehead thermometer only comes into contact with the forehead, it’s still possible for germs to be present on the skin. To avoid passing germs between members of your family, wipe down the probe or sensor area of the thermometer with an alcohol wipe after each use. If you have a noncontact model that doesn’t require the sensor to touch the skin, it’s a good idea to clean the probe anyway because accidental contact can occur.

Q. What type of batteries do forehead thermometers use?
A. It varies from model to model. However, most forehead thermometers require either two AAA or AA batteries.

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