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Comparing mercury-in-glass, tympanic and disposable thermometers in measuring body temperature in healthy young people


  • Leyla Khorshid,

  • İsmet Eşer,

  • Ayten Zaybak,

  • Ülkü Yapucu

Ülkü Yapucu
Ege University School of Nursing
Bornova/İzmir, 35100
Telephone: 0 232 388 11 03


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.