A thermometer is the most important medical tool in a household, whether you have kids or not. It’s the basic item of every first aid kid. But did you know that it’s also a huge reason for spreading germs and bacteria, if not cleaned properly, the thermometer can make you or your loved one even more ill.
As the thermometer penetrates different parts of the body, it can accumulate all types of gunk, sweat, germs as well as spit. When this dirty thermometer goes from one family member to another, it can spread germs and make a healthy person ill. No matter what kind of thermometer you are using,
How to Clean a Thermometer at Home
No matter what kind of a thermometer you have, there are many different and easy ways of cleaning it. The best way is to sterilize the thermometer; it’s the easiest way to clean and make sure it doesn’t infect the next person who uses it. Another reason for sterilizing is to keep the sensor free from anything that might interfere with the reading of the thermometer.
It’s important that you clean your thermometer after and before every use. It’s prudent to clean it before you use it every time so that nothing is left to chance. Another good way to limit or eliminate contamination completely is to use a disposable thermometer and discard it after every use.
Sterilizing doesn’t mean that you have to boil your thermometer; you can easily sterilize your thermometer by wiping it down with an alcohol swab. If you dint have alcohol swabs, you can always use a cotton pad or a soft cloth dipped in alcohol. For small gaps and cracks in the thermometer, you can use a cotton bud soaked in alcohol.
For more conventional and old-school thermometers; you can wash them with lukewarm water and soap. However, make sure you wash the tip with cold water instead of hot because hot water can mess-up the reading of the sensor. Do not submerge the thermometer in the water completely. This will damage the thermometer. Moreover, a steam wash isn’t a good idea for digital thermometers.
Most parents have used a rectal thermometer on their kids before the age of three. It’s extremely important that a rectal thermometer is cleaned before and after use as it’s the most invasive method of measure body temperature. For a digital one, sterilization through alcohol swabs is perfectly fine, but you can also use water and soap as long as you dint submerge the device in water.
Another thing to keep in mind is that every household should have separate rectal and oral thermometers. Most thermometers come with instructions that you can use one both ways, but doctors and child specialist do not recommend using one thermometer for both areas. To eliminate any confusion, always label you rectal thermometer clearly. Here’s a detailed guide to help you understand how to wash, clean or sterilize different types of thermometers.
1. Infrared/Forehead Thermometers
If you have cranky kids or small babies, we believe that Infrared/Forehead Thermometers are the best. They detect temperature externally and are the least invasive of all, best for fussy babies and toddlers. Most people believe that because they barely touch the skin, there is no need to clean them or sterilize them, but that’s not the case. The easiest way to clean such a thermometer is to give it a quick wipe with an alcohol swab, or cotton pad dipped in alcohol. The only thing you need to care about is to let the thermometers dry before putting it away.
2 Ear Thermometers
Ear thermometers are invasive devices; hence they should always be cleaned properly. The thermometer is inserted into the ear canal to get the reading; there are all sorts of germs and bacteria in the ear. You can clean the thermometer with an alcohol cotton swab before store it away. Furthermore, it’s prudent that you clean it again when you need to use it the second time. Hot water is also a good idea to clean the ear thermometer but make sure that you don’t dip the device in water, just the tip will suffice.
There you are, this is all you need to know about cleaning a thermometer. However, there is one more thing that is as important; when to replace thermometer. Like every other thing we use, a thermometer has an expiry too. One should always know when to replace the thermometer and get a new one. Here’s all you need to know about when to replace your thermometer.
When to Replace Your Thermometer
You can extend the lifespan of a thermometer if you care for it and clean it properly after every use. However, when it’s time to replace, the thermometer starts indicating you by telling you inaccurate readings. For most thermometers replacing is a good option, but for a digital one, try and replace the batteries fits, if it still malfunctions then go for a new one. However, a lot of digital ones come with expensive batteries, so it’s economical to replace the device rather than the batteries.
So, how do you know that the thermometer is malfunctioning? The easiest way to do that is to check it on a healthy member of your family. Sometimes accumulated gunk or sweat can also make the sensor give off wring readings; hence it’s important to know how to disinfect a thermometer properly.
Many households have multiple thermometers; you can compare readings of both the thermometers and see if any one of them is inaccurate.
How to Use Different Kinds of Thermometers
Apart from knowing how to sterilize a thermometer and when to replace one, it’s also crucial to know how to use one properly. Here are various types of thermometers and how to use them:
1. Rectal Thermometer
Since rectal is the most invasive thermometer, the reading gauged from it is 100% accurate. According to doctors, it’s the best thermometers for infants as well as toddlers or kids till the age of three. Here’s how to use the rectal thermometer:
- Apply petroleum jelly on to the bulb of the thermometer.
- Now lay your baby on the bed, belly down, and gently insert the bulb 1/2 to 1 inch into your child’s rectum.
- Gently keep the thermometer in place with two fingers until it gives you a proper reading.
The only reason not to use the rectal thermometer is that most kids are too fussy and they don’t feel comfortable while measuring. A rectal thermometer is highly accurate.
2. Oral Thermometer
An oral thermometer is a first and most popular choice among all parents. The reading is measured by placing the thermometer under the tongue of the baby, toddler, or adult. To have an accurate reading, keep your child away from any cold or hot drinks for 20 minutes prior to measuring, also ask your children to keep their mouth shut while the thermometer is under their tongue and refrain from moving their tongue. The only side effect is kids not sitting still and messing up the reading by moving their tongue a lot. The accuracy rate of the oral thermometer is pretty decent as well.
3. Ear Thermometer
Tympanic thermometers or ear thermometers are also invasive, and hence their reading is 100% accurate. However, they are expensive, and their batteries also need to change often. Taking a reading with an ear thermometer can be tricky if you aren’t aware of how to do it or if there is an excess buildup of wax in the ear canal. Most doctors do not suggest an ear thermometer for kids under the age of one. The reason why it’s popular is that the reading is accurate (when done right) and fast.
4. Underarm Thermometer
Underarm thermometers are highly discouraged by doctors as this is the spot of the bod that hardly ever gives an accurate reading. Many doctors suggest adding 1F to the reading for accuracy. However, it’s the best kind for parents who have fussy kids and have a hard time getting their kids to open their mouths. The downside of this thermometer is unreliable reading; if the room is chilled, you might not get a proper reading. The only advantage is that it’s easy to use with fussy and cranky kids.
Be extremely careful while using a mercury thermometer as they are prone to breaking. In case of an accident or breaking, call your nearest emergency and do not touch the mercury with bare hands.
While thermometers are a must-have in every household, you need to be extremely careful while using and storing them. You will need to be extra careful while cleaning them as well. Please note that a dirty thermometer will accumulate bacteria that might infect your baby and make things even worse the next time you use it. Refer to our guide when you are looking up, “best baby thermometer” for your little one.