Are Ear Thermometers Safe


Out of all the necessary equipment to be kept in first aid, thermometer is a basic one as it is the first thing everyone look for when feeling ill. The difficulty arises in choosing the best one for your house. There are numerous options each having its own merits and demerits.

It’s important to know each and every aspect before choosing to buy it. However, the most critical of all aspect is, whether it’s safe to use or not? The instrument is primarily required for infants and kids who aren’t careful in handling things. So, special emphasis is needed in checking if the thermometer won’t harm them.

Ear Thermometers – Safety Concerns

The traditional mercury oral thermometers are very hazardous as when it’s put in the mouth, the glass can break. There is a danger of mercury swallowed by the kid; this is a nightmare for a mother.

The digital thermometers, differentiated on the body part used for measuring temperature, have finished this hazard. Life is easy? I guess mothers still won’t agree. The babies and kids suffering from fever are often very hard to control so using oral and armpit thermometers is still very frustrating. The ear thermometers give this luxury as it’s fast, accurate (if used correctly) and safe as well.

Another reason for using it is that eardrum, just like your tongue, is a very accurate point for knowing body temperature because it recess inside the head. But the eardrum is so delicate; you don’t want the thermometer to touch it. So that’s why they come up with the infrared radiation to absorb the heat.

What Doctors Say

The doctors however don’t recommend ear thermometer for newborns. The first reason being, that the ear canal of infants is very narrow and small than the probe of thermometer.

This makes it unable to reach the sensitive parts of ear. If tried pushing probe it can harm the membrane and cause too much pain for the suffering baby. The correct method is to insert it as smoothly as possible. If there is resistance, stop pushing and twist it. This will secure and the position will maintain.

Secondly, there are chances of possible ear infection in newborn babies. Sometimes, its visibility shown as the color of ear goes red but other than that, it’s fairly deceiving.  Using ear thermometer can not only increase the infection and pain but can also give false readings.

This leads to problems in treating the patient especially if he’s/she’s a small child. In those cases, it’s recommended not to use the ear thermometer and rather go for rectal, oral or underarm. Forehead and non-contact thermometers are best for newborn as they are easy and safe to use.

Finally, it’s an infrared device. Although, it’s only role is to receive heat and not to send any waves or heat at any given point of time but the laser beam is always harmful in the hands of infants and/or kids.

The laser beam is only to be active at the time of measurement. If it’s active otherwise, it can come in direct contact with the eye. This would cause injury to the eye, may be severe. In extreme cases, there are chances of blindness as well.

One should be very precautious and not allow direct contact of the laser beam with the eye. Also, laser beams should also be avoided to come in front of reflective surface as the reflection is as harmful as the direct beams.

Also, these instruments should be kept away from flammable objects like gas used for cooking and combustible liquids e.g. oil. These beams if touch any of these objects would cause explosion or fire.

Safety Precautions

To prevent you from these instances, always keep the thermometer in cover and only take it out for measurement. It should also be kept at such a place at which the toddlers or kids can’t reach. It’s highly recommended to stay with your child when measuring temperature.

He/she should not be left on his/her own. It’s still the safest device of its kind when compared with the glass and other digital thermometers. As it’s still a new technology, its safety is traded-off with its accuracy. But we have bright hopes that it would become the safest and accurate equipment in its industry.


The ear thermometer or we can call it tympanic thermometer, with all the pros and cons, is the most recommended thermometer for adults and for children 6 months or older. The reason being that it’s as reliable as the temperature measured through tongue and is more fast than any thermometer that exist till date.

It’s reliable because the eardrum is very close with the hypothalamus which regulates the temperature of human body. The membrane being so thin and transparent, almost as it doesn’t exist, that the infrared radiation it emits is as equal as of eardrum so it gives a very close indication of the heat inside.

Further Reading on Best Ear Thermometers