Wednesday, May 28th, 2008
Review: Thermofocus No-Touch Infrared Thermometer
Thermofocus by Kidz-Med is the first instant no-touch thermometer. Our family field-tested it recently after we caught the Ebola virus.
Okay, maybe it was a common cold, but when your infant son can’t cry because his voice has grown hoarse, it tears at your heart.
The thermometer’s Big Idea is that you can instantly grab your child’s temperature without sticking something in his mouth or in the ear or rubbing across the forehead. It takes seconds and theoretically involves no touch (more on that later).
Thermofocus is an infrared thermometer powered by 4 AAA batteries. It measures infrared radiation naturally emitted from our bodies.
Do you remember Predator, the 1987 action flick starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and a nasty alien who tracked people through a visor that represented us by our body heat? It’s the same thing, except Thermofocus doesn’t hunt us for sport.
The thermometer has three buttons, an LCD screen and a protective cap that flips open when you’re ready to grab a temperature.
1. Press the smiley face button. The LCD screen activates, alternating between showing you the last recorded temperature and the current room temperature. Other data about the device’s operation is also shown.
2. Flip open the protective cap. It remains hinged to the unit. You won’t lose it.
3. Hold the unit perpendicular to the middle of the forehead, about 1 to 2 inches away.
4. Press and hold the smiley face button. Two red dots of light appear on the forehead. (If you’re measuring yourself alone, you need a mirror.)
5. Move the unit closer and further away until the dots combine as one. Let go of the smiley face button. The lights flash momentarily, then you’re finished.
6. Read the body temperature on the LCD display.
To review previous temperatures, press the “Mem” button to look through the last nine temperatures.
It works! Zap, and the temperature appears. In normal circumstances, it’s exceedingly easy to use. Thermofocus gives me consistent readings and reliably measures our temperatures.
I say this knowing that we’ve been using a competing infrared thermometer for four years that requires direct contact… sliding across the forehead or placement under the ear. With that infuriating device we take temperatures 3 to 4 times and go with a ballpark figure.
In contrast, Thermofocus reports consistently within a tenth of a degree, and appeared accurate in comparison to our assortment of other thermometers in our home.
The Thermofocus also doesn’t beep like a certain other thermometer that has woken my daughter up on more than one occasion. And, the unit can toggle between Fahrenheit and Celsius reporting.
1. The LCD screen has no backlight. It’s the case with most (all?) LCD thermometers. When used on my son or daughter in the dark, there is enough light to correctly use the device, but not to read the LCD display. I exit the room to see what’s what.
2. The instructions lack a “quick start” guide and could be more intuitive. When you turn the device on for the first time and see a countdown clock, you wonder, what the heck? It’s the device acclimating to the room’s temperature. And why does the LCD display have a toggle between oral and rectal settings for a “no-touch” thermometer? It seems leftover from a different model unit.
3. The error messages are cryptic, reported in just 2 or 3 characters on the LCD display. The errors I saw were from me goofing around, measuring objects when I told the device it was measuring a person… it reported a high or low temperature error. Still, keep the printed instructions handy in a bathroom drawer.
Lots O’ Cautions
If you’ve ever bothered to read thermometer instructions, you’ve noticed a laundry list of issues that affect a thermometer’s accuracy. Thermofocus is no different. Here are the major points.
1. My daughter’s bangs have to be brushed away because strands of hair will affect accuracy.
2. Lots of movement is a no-no too, so the head of our awake baby boy has to be steadied with a hand.
3. Perspiration is a no-no. Wipe a wet forehead dry and wait a few minutes. We didn’t have a problem, but the instructions tell you to instead take a less-accurate reading from the naval, using the button that has a house icon on it.
4. Moving the device between rooms of significantly different temperatures is a no-no, requiring the device to recalibrate itself. Recalibration takes 10 to 30 minutes, or there is an instant shortcut that involves zapping an object located between 30 and 60 inches off the ground. We keep the Thermofocus in the same room as the sick person, but our home has generally even temperatures and recalibration isn’t a concern. The LCD screen indicates whether recalibration is occurring.
Kidz-Med touts several alternate uses, such as measuring the temperature of baby food, baby milk and bath water. These measurements are taken just like body temperatures, except you press the button that has a house icon on it.
While these measurements are technically possible, I can’t see parents doing them. There is no substitute for touching food or water or sprinkling milk on your wrist. Still, it’s fun to experiment a little around the house.
My wife is a nurse, and thermometers are an opportunity for her to get her geek on. Thermofocus is our fifth thermometer. We have:
- An old school mercury one (wait 3 minutes for the result)
- A standard oral/rectal digital (same thing, several minutes inserted)
- An ear one (yay, a loud click in your ear, waking the baby!)
- An infrared unit that has to be rubbed across a forehead (yielding varying results)
The Thermofocus beats the other options hands down for ease and reliability. It has taught me to trust a thermometer’s first measurement, not taking it twice or more to be sure. That was a hard habit to break me from.
Now, this thing’s suggested retail price is $80, but there’s an Amazon vendor selling it for $60. I look at it as an investment because you’ll be using it again and again over the next 18 years. Short of having a microchip implanted in your forehead, I can’t see the technology getting any better than this.