Just like with any other devices, the best infrared medical thermometer is a relative attribution. All devices ever created have their pros and cons. However, there are those which stand out in the most desirable of features and this always gives them an edge over the rest. For infrared medical thermometers, the features to focus on are; accuracy, reading time, reading distance, temperature reading and working ranges, battery type and durability, ease of use, versatility and of course-the cost (though its advisable, to consider this last)! The discussion below is primarily based on product specifications, regulatory body reviews/guidelines (like MDR, WHO & FDA), user reviews in some of the most renown online platforms, and personal experience with body temperature measurements. This should be very helpful for one who needs to “quickly choose the best”.
Accuracy and quality
Infrared thermometer accuracy is a major factor to look into since it
can be an issue in some of them. An accuracy of +/- 0.1 degrees C/F is excellent, +/- 0.2 degrees C (~ +/- 0.4 degrees F) is good, though this can vary with temperature ranges of measurement as well. An accuracy >/= 0.5 is undesirable for human body temperature measurements.This can easily be verified on product specifications.
Most if not all the infrared medical thermometers you’ll encounter will possess an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certification, with or without a unique device identifier (UDI) number which attests to the device having undergone a quality review process. So the devices are generally safe to use if they have got an ISO, a UDI and in some instances a national bureau of standards signature embossed/inscribed.
Reading distance and time.
Reading distance (simply; the distance between the thermometer and
body surface of which the temperature is being recorded. Beyond the maximum, a wrong or no reading is obtained); the longer the better, especially in this error of social distancing. Reading distance is reported in two major ways: 1) as a plain measure of distance (mm, cm, inches or even meters), 2) as a distance to spot ratio (D:S). Generally, the smaller the ratio, the broader the potential reading surface area (so the thermometer has to be reasonably close to avoid capturing environmental temperatures), bigger ratios allow for readings at longer distances. You wouldn’t like to obtain one with a distance of < 2.5 cm or D:S ratios < 1:4.
The reading time (time taken for the thermometer to take a measurement) should be desirably short since this involves the subject staying still which can be a challenge especially in Infants and toddlers. The shorter the reading time the better, anything < 10 seconds is good enough.
Temperature reading and working (operating) range.
The reading range; clarifies the capacity of measurement, the minimum and maximum temperatures that the thermometer can accurately Identify. The lowest and highest recorded temperatures in live humans are 13.7 degrees Centigrade (56.7 °F), and 46.5 degrees centigrade (115.7 °F), at least up to date. So, a range of 10 to 50 degrees C ( 50-122 °F) is excellent and ideal since live human body temperatures outside that range are unexpected. Unfortunately, most of the available devices range between 32 and 43 degrees C (89.6-109.4 °F) which is good enough for most circumstances, however, for those in ER/EMT/EMS settings, a low reading thermometer (generally wider range) will be necessary.
Working (operating) range; are the environmental temperatures under which the thermometer can be used and stored without affecting its performance, the other factor being environmental humidity which varies with temperature but most devices perform over broad ranges. The choice for this will largely depend on where in the globe the device is intended for use. Those inhabiting the poles and perhaps Sahara/death valley should pay close attention to this, as this property is largely variant in the above devices.
Just remember, the higher the environmental temperature, the higher the humidity (within certain limits). Unfortunately, electronic devices are better off in lower humidity.
Battery type and durability.
Most medical infrared thermometers use either an inbuilt rechargeable battery or simple and easily replaceable dry cells. One’s choice on this will depend on availability of charging facilities (most of them use dry cells anyway). Just to note, those powered by dry cells tend to last longer!
Versatility and ease of use.
A majority of medical infrared thermometers can take both body and surface temperatures, so if you are the kind who likes to check for fevers as well as how your kitchen winery is performing, you are covered!
Most of these devices are easy to use and one should have no worries if they are good at following instructions. So, there shouldn’t be a need for that short course on how to use an infrared medical thermometer.
This definitely, is one of the factors to consider when buying an infrared medical thermometer but only relates to the weight of one’s purse. Just to note, the notion “more expensive is better” is not always true. However, Most of these devices are affordable with prices ranging from 1 to 3 figures.
Good to go?
Yes! You should be. The table below Provides a ranked comparison on commonly marketed infrared medical thermometers basing on the discussion above.
Let’s say; we’ll award the device, a good (3points), average (2 points), or limiting (1points) for the above discussed properties. For the cost, good, average and limiting represent US $ < 50, 50-99, ≥100 respectively. The device with the highest rank points should be your best shot!
Note that this is only a comparison with respect to specifications and reviews and is not in any way intended to undermine any device or manufacturer.