A clinical thermometer is a device designed to measure human body temperature and determine when a person is running a dangerously high fever or suffering from hypothermia. There are several different models of clinical thermometers available to consumers, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Consumers should look for a thermometer within their price range that they can use safely and effectively. Less expensive models usually take longer to get a reading and have fewer features than more expensive alternatives.
Parents with young children should avoid older glass thermometers that contain mercury. While these can be inexpensive, this type of clinical thermometer can shatter easily when dropped and expose children to the toxic mercury. Young children also may bite down on the thermometer, causing it to break inside their mouths. These thermometers can take a relatively long time to correctly register the temperature of the body, which can be a problem with fussy children who try to remove the device. More recent models may contain a non-toxic alternative to mercury and may be safer for home use.
Forehead strip thermometers are another relatively inexpensive kind of clinical thermometer. The thermometer strip is placed against a patient's forehead and different colors light up on the strip to indicate the current temperature. While these work much faster than traditional oral thermometers, they are generally less accurate in pinpointing the patient's exact temperature. The light weight and ease of use of strip thermometers makes them convenient for travel or placement in a small first aid kit.
Digital thermometers are an increasingly popular alternative to traditional models and offer a number of benefits. Electronic oral thermometers can be used in the same manner as older devices and can deliver an accurate measurement much faster than a mercury thermometer will. They also are easier for many users to read because of their digital displays. These models contain batteries that must be changed from time to time, adding to their overall cost. Digital oral thermometers are generally harder to disinfect, and manufactures usually recommend that consumers purchase plastic covers to help keep germs away from the device.
Other types of digital thermometers allow for in-ear or non-contact temperature measurements. While this kind of clinical thermometer is much more expensive, it is easier to use on sick and fussy children than many devices are. The temperature reading may only take around a second to complete with some models. Non-contact thermometers also can be used to determine the temperature of a formula bottle or a bath for an infant. Many electronic clinical thermometer models allow users to save a log of recent readings, so they can tell if a patient's temperature is trending up or down over time.