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How to use human and pet thermometers safely

Last Updated: 30.01.23

Thermometers have become essential tools for both the health system and for home users. As their name suggests, they are utilized for measuring the temperature of a person or an animal. In any case, most of the models you are likely to come across are designed for this purpose and can be used on living beings.

Some infrared thermometers can be employed for determining the temperature of environments and walls. Also known as industrial thermometers, these models prove their worth under a variety of circumstances, such as HVAC repairs. There are, however, quality infrared thermometers that can be used on living and breathing beings.

Of all of the alternatives available for sale these days, those that are the most dangerous ones are mercury ones. We’ll do our best at explaining both how these devices work and how they can be employed safely for measuring the temperature of humans and pets.


How to safely use a mercury thermometer

Despite being outdated compared to other types of designs, mercury thermometers are still common in many households. They are efficient, without a doubt, and they can tell you in as little time as possible the temperature of a person or an animal.

The problem with these products, however, is that they contain mercury, and mercury is a highly dangerous substance. It expands when it is heated, and that’s why it is capable of measuring body temperature effectively. Most such models have a marking with the Celsius and Fahrenheit scale. The thin line that can be found in the middle of the scale is responsible for telling you just what temperature the unit has determined.

Because they are reusable, mercury thermometers should be cleaned both after and prior to using them. They also have to be disinfected. You can use a simple cotton ball that you’ve soaked in alcohol for this purpose. Make sure to pay attention to cleaning the metal part that can be found at one end of the thermometer, because that’s the component that needs to come in contact with the body area.

When using a mercury thermometer, there are three regions where you can take the temperature; under the tongue, in the rectal area, and in the armpit. Because of their mercury component, it is not a good idea to use such thermometers under the tongue, especially when measuring the temperature of babies. By far the safest body area for this type of product is in the armpit.

A significant drawback of such a thermometer is that it does require a bit of time for it to do its job. You need to use it for at least several minutes, and that can be uncomfortable, to say the least. A dog thermometer, for instance, needs to be introduced in the rectal area, and it is virtually impossible to keep a pet immobile for several minutes while something has been stuck in his or her rear.

If you’ve used the mercury thermometer in the rectum, it’s safe to say that you should never again use it in your mouth. No matter how much you might disinfect it, there might still be bacteria left on the metal tip. To ensure that you do not accidentally endanger your health of that of the person you’ve taken the temperature of, use the thermometer rectally from now on.

If your mercury thermometer ever breaks, you should first evacuate anyone that might be left in the area, including pets. Put a pair of latex gloves, clean the glass pieces, and then use a sizeable piece of cardboard to gather the mercury beads. Put them into a bag and take it to a waste facility near you.

Mercury is highly dangerous. When vacuumed or cleaned with a broom, it can be broken down into smaller drops that you might fail to see. That is why we strongly suggest updating your ancient thermometer with a digital one.

How to use a digital thermometer

You can use a digital thermometer orally, rectally, and axillary. Although it’s common sense, we do have to make the same mention, meaning that you should avoid using the same thermometer for the oral and rectal area.

Unlike their mercury counterparts, digital alternatives are safe and convenient, and most come with a metal tip that’s sensitive and efficient, and that can tell you the temperature in as little as thirty to forty seconds. Therefore, they do their job far more quickly compared to mercury thermometers.


How to take a baby’s temperature

To measure the temperature of a baby, you can either use a digital thermometer rectally, or you can purchase an in-ear thermometer and rely on its services. It appears that the eardrum is particularly accurate when it comes to pointing out the body temperature. In fact, most studies suggest that the temperature indicated by an in-ear thermometer is close to that you’d get when measuring it under the tongue.

Such infrared models are perfectly safe to use on children, but there are several notes that must be made so that everything runs smoothly and safely. Something you ought to know about most infrared ear thermometers is that they are quite fragile, which is why you want to make sure that they do not come in contact with the eardrum.

What are disposable thermometers and how can they be utilized?

Disposable thermometers are commonly utilized in hospitals. The main advantage they offer is that they cannot be used on more than one person. What this means is that the risk of contagion or infection by spreading disease is virtually non-existent.

If you have purchased a set of disposable thermometers, you need to tear one off from the strip, peel open the pack, remove the unit by its handle, and avoid touching the dotted section.

Place the latter under your tongue and leave in position for approximately one minute. Remove the thermometer and wait for ten extra seconds before getting your reading. Use the dots to figure out the temperature measured by the product.



Ioana Moldovan

Ioana’s professional experience in the optics field has helped her understand the value of passing her knowledge forward. Her curious personality helps her gather useful information for her readers and her goal is to make technical information fun and accessible to everyone.

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