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It’s Summer, So Let’s Talk Temperature

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Choosing a thermometer that’s right for you and the ones you love most

It’s getting warmer (hello Summer) so now is a good time to talk about temperature.

No, I’m not talking about your air conditioning unit or if you should plan book an AirBnB by the beach for a well-earned break.

I’m talking about your body.

Let’s take a journey through time. Let me remind you of your primary school science class, where you learned that mammals are warm-blooded. And you are a mammal.

You probably don’t walk around thinking about this. You don’t pause at the traffic lights and suddenly think to yourself, ‘I am a mammal, and I am warm.’

But there are times when you feel that reality – like when you have a fever.

Or, more concerningly, when your child has a fever.

The fact is, having a thermometer in your medicine cabinet and your first aid box is a no brainer. You don’t want to be caught without one in your hour of need. And if you are relying on a very old thermometer, it is likely worth upgrading.

To be honest, you don’t need me to gently suggest that you stock up on – or upgrade – a thermometer. We now see thermometers in places we’d never expect: stepping onto aeroplanes, out front of your favourite Ramen restaurant, and perhaps even at your son or daughter’s school.

Whether it’s an Omron ear thermometer or a Braun ThermoScan, thermometers are having their thirty seconds of fame. And with good reason: we know now, more than ever before, the importance of having a temperature in the normal range.

It’s good for your family, good for your community, and good for everyone.

There are two broad categories that come to mind when I think of people looking into thermometers.

  • Buying a thermometer for the first time

Maybe you’re buying a thermometer for the first time. It could be that you’re a proud new parent, just moved out of home, or are more health conscious than you have been in the past.

Proud new parent

Firstly, congratulation. I hope you’re getting plenty of sleep.

Being a new mum or dad isn’t easy, but nothing beats the feeling of seeing your child look up at you for the first time.

And nearly nothing is more frightening when they’re unwell. Adding a thermometer to your supply cupboard – well out of reach of the kids, of course – is a great move. It’s an investment into the health of the ones you love the most. Make sure you also speak to your GP about fever in children and equip yourself with all the information you need to give your kids the support they deserve.

Just moved out of home

When Aladdin and Jasmine sang about a whole new world in the Disney movie, I don’t think they were talking about adulting. But that’s what it feels like when you first move out: a whole new world.

Suddenly you’re responsible for the electricity bills, refills for the peppermint tea, and keeping managing the toilet paper supply chain.

Don’t get me wrong: I know that many people who still live with their parents shoulder a lion’s share of the work. My point is this: many of us suddenly find ourselves responsible for stocking up on things like thermometers.

Health conscious for the first time in a long time.

Maybe you’ve been living a fast-paced, no regrets life for a while and it’s starting to catch up with you. I got that feeling during my final seasons playing futsal (I’ve had to hang up the boots, unfortunately). Watching younger players run rings around me was a very clear reminder that I’m not in my early twenties anymore. Warming up before the game matters.

It’s kind of like that with your personal medical supplies. It seems like something you don’t need to worry about … until it is.

  • Replacing dangerous and ineffective thermometers  

This is the second category. You might have a thermometer at home, but it requires replacement. Urgently.

The history of the humble thermometer will blow you away. The first thermometer was invented in – wait for it – the early 1600s. That means that the first thermometers are only a little bit younger than Shakespeare. Even more impressive, the first thermometer was designed before the Aztec empire for sprung onto the scene.

That’s the cool part (excuse the pun). Now for the concerning part. For most of its life, the thermometer have relied on a key ingredient: mercury. The thing about mercury is highly toxic for humans. It’s certainly not something you want in your medical thermometer.

If you have a mercury thermometer, please, please, please look into your state’s guidelines for disposing it safely. No shame needed – just action.

It’s more likely that you don’t have a dangerous thermometer, just one that doesn’t work for a range of reasons. Maybe it’s out of batteries. Maybe the instruction manual is absolutely baffling. Maybe it just doesn’t ‘feel’ right, for a reason that you can’t quite put your finger on.

Whatever the case, it probably makes sense to make a relatively small investment into a Medsense, Vicks, or Omron thermometer.

But what next? How do you decide?

The key is to be aware of your options.

  1.       Digital probe thermometers. These offer oral or armpit readings. If you want to get technical, you can call an armpit reading an axillary reading; feel free to store this information for your next trivia night. If you’re looking for a Braun, Vicks, or Omron thermometer, you can find them in this style. They’re often accurate, but many people don’t find them comfortable. They are not always suitable for children.
  2.       Ear thermometers. The real strength of a product like the Omron ear thermometer is how quick and easy it is to use. While these have been quite expensive in the past, new technology means that there is a product for every budget. You won’t have to spend an arm and a leg to figure out your temperature. These thermometers are not suitable for the very young or the very old, so ensure that you use only as direct and consult with a trusted medical professional.
  3.       Forehead thermometers. These were invented by NASA. Just kidding. Nonetheless, they do look like something out of a science fiction movie. They’re shaped like an unusual laser gun, or (if you prefer a more peaceful comparison) a barcode scanner at Kmart. They give quick results, are non-invasive, and let you keep a safe distance from someone who is contagious. Unfortunately, they can be expensive, can give inaccurate readings, and some people find them difficult to use.
  4.       Strip-type thermometers. I include this as a fourth option simply so that you can get a good sense of what is available. To be honest, these can be quite inaccurate, especially for young people. The good news is that they are cheap as chips, and in some situations they might be suitable for you and your family.

So, what should I do?

I have customers ask me this question all the time. Sometimes, there is a clear-cut answer. Should I buy sunscreen with an active ingredient, or just trust the good vibes to stop me from burning? I hope the answer is so obvious that I don’t need to say it.

When it comes to thermometers, I suggest that you select based on price, accuracy, and ease of use. The reality is that the best thermometer is a relatively good one that you use correctly. The best thermometer in the world is of no use if the user manual is impossible to navigate.

The good news is that most modern thermometers are surprisingly simple to operate.

Once you have bought your thermometer, the next step is to educate yourself on the nature, cause, and severity of fevers. Speak to a GP or a trusted health profession to learn about the normal range of temperatures, when urgent medical assistance is required, and other ways to keep yourself and your family healthy.

That’s all from me! All the best from my family to yours.