Read the latest HealthWatch newsletter:  Newsletter 116, Summer 2021

Accuracy of strip-like forehead thermometers – a lay summary

Plastic strip thermometers that are laid on the forehead are popular with parents as they are cheap and easy to use, especially with sleeping or uncooperative children. But can you rely on their readings?

  •  The simple answer is, no. The evidence says strip thermometers are nowhere near as accurate as the traditional mercury glass thermometer.
  • In around 4 in 10 cases, parents using a forehead strip on a child with fever may be misled into thinking their temperature is normal. 
  • If you only have a forehead strip thermometer, allow for the actual temperature measurement to be out by at least +/-1.5°C and take repeated measurements over time.

Mandy Payne, 27 March 2020

This is a lay summary of a report repared for the Oxford COVID-19 Evidence Service of the Oxford Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford by Jon Brassey and Carl Heneghan, and posted on 23rd March 2020.

Disclaimer: the article has not been peer-reviewed; it should not replace individual clinical judgement and the sources cited in the original report should be checked. The views expressed in this commentary represent an interpretation by HealthWatch and do not necessarily represent those of Oxford CEBM, the NHS, the NIHR, or the Department of Health and Social Care. The views are not a substitute for professional medical advice.


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