Infrared Thermometer VS. Mercury Thermometer - What's The Difference?

Infrared thermometer

Thermometers can be tricky things to read sometimes, with new technology coming into play like smart thermometers based in your home - Google and other technology companies coming out with such technology, so as to increase the accuracy of their readouts, sometimes it can be difficult to know where to start when shopping for a thermometer.

However, two main players remain in the battle of the thermometers: infrared thermometers and mercury thermometers. These two types of thermometers operate in different ways, but essentially produce the same result: offering you a temperature reading that’s as accurate as possible. Here are a few key differences between the two types of thermometers, to allow you to make the best purchasing decision possible.

What is an Infrared Thermometer?

An infrared thermometer is a temperature measuring device that is mostly used in clinical settings, preferred over a digital thermometer, as these often require physical contact, which has to be severely limited, for obvious reasons. Infrared thermometers come in two different types:

Tympanic Thermometers:

Tympanic thermometers, otherwise known as ‘in-ear’ thermometers are used in hospital settings to obtain temperature from the inner ear. This is because the inner ear is made of the hypothalamus, which shares a blood supply with the carotid artery. Therefore, tympanic thermometers are said to be one of the most accurate readers of core temperature.

Non-Contact Infrared Thermometers:

These thermometers are the types of infrared thermometers that you’ll have seen throughout the last couple of years. These infrared thermometers take temperature by measuring the temperature of the temporal artery, which is located on the forehead. This measurement is an overall accurate reading of core temperature.

What is a Mercury Thermometer?

In sharp contrast to an infrared thermometer, a Mercury thermometer is a glass vial that contains mercury. As the ambient temperature rises and falls, the mercury expands and contracts, causing it to rise and fall with the measured temperature.

Mercury thermometers are no longer considered an accurate measurement of temperature - as they have been proven to be potentially three degrees ‘off’ of the actual temperature. Though mercury thermometers were most commonly used in homes, their use also extended to the medical field - remember ‘say ah’ as a kid? While a glass tube was shoved into your mouth? That was a mercury thermometer!

Fortunately, not least because of their inaccuracy, mercury thermometers are no longer considered to be standard measuring tools by those in the medical field - mercury is also a poisonous and dangerous substance, and accidents have happened where patients have been poisoned by accidentally biting down on the glass tube, shattering it and leeching the mercury contents into their mouths.

Key Differences Between Mercury & Infrared Thermometers

Some of the key differences between mercury and infrared thermometers are as follows:
  • Mercury thermometers are older and deemed unsafe for medical use.
  • Mercury thermometers do not produce as accurate a reading as infrared thermometers.
  • Mercury thermometers can still be found in many older homes, and are generally considered fit only for household use.
  • Infrared thermometers are much more expensive than their mercury counterparts, with prices reaching into a couple of hundred dollars.
  • Infrared thermometers are one of the most accurate, least invasive ways to read body temperature.
Whether you’re looking to purchase an infrared thermometer for your medical office or other medicine-based workspaces, it’s important to remember that, when it comes to temperature measurements - by comparison to its older and far more unreliable counterpart, the infrared thermometer really is the best option for your money.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post