Aim and objectives. The aim of this study was to determine whether a disposable thermometer was at least as accurate as a tympanic thermometer when compared with a mercury-in-glass thermometer and to investigate the waiting periods of mercury-in-glass thermometers.
Background. Although different methods of temperature measurement have been widely studied and described during the last decade, comparison between readings obtained when measuring body temperature using disposable, mercury-in-glass and tympanic thermometers is little documented and there is confusion about the waiting periods of mercury-in-glass thermometers.
Methods. This research was descriptive and comparative. Temperature measurements included three sequential readings using first a tympanic thermometer in the left ear, then a disposable thermometer in the left axillary area and finally a mercury-in-glass thermometer in the right axillary area. All the temperatures were measured on the Celsius (°C) scale. To identify the stabilization periods of the mercury-in-glass thermometers, the temperature measurement was repeated until the reading stabilized. F-tests were used to compare readings of the mean temperatures.
Results. It was found that body temperature readings measured by tympanic thermometer were higher than axillary mercury-in-glass thermometer by 0.12 °C, body temperature readings measured by tympanic thermometer were higher than axillary disposable thermometer readings by 0.65 °C and body temperature readings measured by axillary mercury-in-glass thermometer were higher by 0.53 °C than readings measured by axillary disposable thermometer. It was found that readings measured by mercury-in-glass thermometer stabilized in the eighth minute.
Relevance to clinical practice. When assessing body temperature it is important to take the type of thermometer into consideration. In addition, axillary mercury-in-glass thermometers must be kept in place a minimum of eight minutes.