Review: Thermofocus No-Touch Infrared Thermometer

Photo of the white handheld Thermofocus thermometer. It has three blue buttons bearing icons of a smiley face, house and the letters M-E-M. An LCD display shows a temperature of 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit and several other pieces of data. The tip of the thermometer opens by a flip-top cover.

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).

Background

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.

Photo of my daughter closing her eyes as her mother holds her bangs back with one hand while the other hand points the Thermofocus at her forehead. A red dot is visible on the forehead.

Normal Operation

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.

The Good

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.

The Bad

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.

Other Uses

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.

In Summary

My wife is a nurse, and thermometers are an opportunity for her to get her geek on. Thermofocus is our fifth thermometer. We have:

  1. An old school mercury one (wait 3 minutes for the result)
  2. A standard oral/rectal digital (same thing, several minutes inserted)
  3. An ear one (yay, a loud click in your ear, waking the baby!)
  4. 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.

Comments

18 Responses to “Review: Thermofocus No-Touch Infrared Thermometer”

  1. Summer says:

    Very cool. I need to buy one. I have used a similar thermometer in my job. I work for a wine store and we have a laser thermometer that measures the temperature of things when it is pointed at them and works great. I never thought about getting one for home – but I should! Great idea.

    May 28th, 2008 at 5:33 am

  2. lindsey says:

    ugh, apparently ‘Ebola” is going around :) We have it at our house too. We have two thermometers – an ear digital and a rectal digital. The ear digital is some kind of inconsistent and unaccurate – sometimes as much as 5 degrees. I freaked out when DS’ temp went from 102 3-4 times to 108 just because it wasn’t in his ear correctly.

    I tried to use the rectal….really, I did. DS and DH were NOT having it. I chased DH around the house for a half hour. I understand his pain.

    This seems like a great investment. I’m pregnant with DS2 right now so maybe I’ll put it on the list of things we need :)

    May 28th, 2008 at 7:00 am

  3. Julian says:

    Looks cool!
    The other type that we got when our daughter was born is one of the new quick read digitals. They literally take like 2 seconds to get a reading.
    She’s still too young to see how hard this would be orally though…

    May 28th, 2008 at 7:23 am

  4. Jennifer says:

    This seems a great non-invasive way to take a temperature. I am going to have to look into getting one of these for the center. Awesome! Thanks.

    May 28th, 2008 at 7:50 am

  5. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    You say it is consistent — but is it accurate? Two of the reviews on Amazon complain about this.

    May 28th, 2008 at 8:19 am

  6. JMo says:

    This will be the perfect birthday or Christmas gift for ILs to buy for my son! They don’t want to buy toys, and we have enough books to open a library and clothes for an orphanage.

    Maybe they will have improved the LCD backlight by then.

    May 28th, 2008 at 8:25 am

  7. AJ says:

    MBR, for accuracy, I compared the Thermofocus readings against those of our oral digital thermometer and ear thermometer. While the 3 units never agreed precisely, the Thermofocus was always in the same ballpark.

    My guess is the Amazon complaints are due to a faulty unit, or more likely, user error. As I said in the review, there is a laundry list of potential reasons a faulty reading can occur. Even a few strands of hair can do it.

    Also, those 2 bad reviews are written by people who have only written 1 review each. In my opinion, all Amazon reviews are suspect due to corporate influence… namely, false self-serving reviews written by a company and false negative reviews by a competitor. It’s sort of like judging eBay auctioneers, assessing whether they’re trying to scam you. Maybe they’re genuine, but I don’t see someone getting a wildly bad reading from the Thermofocus, unless there is an unusual defect or there is user error.

    May 28th, 2008 at 8:33 am

  8. Dallas says:

    I thought I had hit the jackpot when I recently got the kind that scans across the head… guess I should’ve stayed in for another hand. Although I did have a lot of fun scanning everyone and everything in reach. (The dog hates me now).

    We recently recovered from a 3 week long ear infection that was the most pitiful thing I’ve ever seen a baby go through. BUT, even in the middle of it I counted my blessings that it wasn’t anything worse.

    May 28th, 2008 at 9:37 am

  9. OverDad says:

    It’s about time they came up with something like this – thanks for the review!

    May 28th, 2008 at 10:34 am

  10. PsychMamma says:

    Thanks for the review! We have a digital thermometer that you place against the skin at the temple and it reads in 2 seconds. Very nice for speed and non-invasiveness, but not incredibly accurate. We usually get a variation of 3-5 degrees with 3 different readings, so we take 3 and average. This one looks like a good investment.

    May 28th, 2008 at 12:08 pm

  11. CanCan says:

    This brings back fond memories of living in China in 2003 during the SARS epidemic. I was quarantined along with all of the staff and students at the boarding school where I worked. Every morning when I left the teacher’s dorm, someone with a doctor’s mask would point some kind of laser-gun thermometer at my forehead to make sure I didn’t have SARS before I went to teach. After 58 days of quarantine on campus, we were finally able to leave the country. The airport had this huge full-body temperature sensing screen that you walked behind and it showed the different heat zones in your body, to satisfiy the authorities that you weren’t feverish and could be free to board your flight.

    May 28th, 2008 at 1:43 pm

  12. adrienne says:

    “except Thermofocus doesn’t hunt us for sport” … yet.

    I can’t believe you missed that joke.

    May 28th, 2008 at 4:04 pm

  13. AJ says:

    Nuanced simplicity Adrienne. Don’t reach too far for a joke.

    But yeah, didn’t think of it.

    May 28th, 2008 at 5:23 pm

  14. Allie Cat says:

    Thank you for reviewing this. Finally, something that won’t wake up the kids or annoy them. Thanks for adding that the cap stays attached. That’s one less thing to get lost.

    May 29th, 2008 at 3:55 pm

  15. coco says:

    apparently *internal* temperature (not surface) is more accurate, so I’m not sure how far I’d trust this thermometer… I’d have to do lots of research. Most likely adequate for us parents, but do medical professionals use them?

    June 1st, 2008 at 7:19 am

  16. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    coco: We asked our doctor what to use for our baby and she recommended AGAINST the rectal. said the underarm themometer would be good enough for us. If it is serious enough to go in to the doctors, then they will take the temp again regardless of what you do. But even if it isn’t 100% accurate, it is accurate enough for what parents need the number for.

    June 1st, 2008 at 12:30 pm

  17. Inki says:

    That is very cool, I had never even heard about this! I won’t be rushing out to buy one quite yet, though (I don’t even know if they sell them here in Norway) since the “regular” thermometer we have worked just fine when our 10-month old daughter had her first fever a couple of weeks ago. I can see the appeal of it being non-intrusive though!

    June 2nd, 2008 at 11:09 am

  18. Jeff K says:

    Great product. I have one and bought two for friends as a baby gift. Dont let anybody fool you. This things works very well. I did some testing when I received the product. Three thermometers and all were within a tenth of a degree. This one takes it instantly and you dont have to disturb a sleeping child. As all of you well know, sleep is a rare commodity when a child is sick. I recommend it if you can swing it.

    April 3rd, 2009 at 9:07 pm