Questions from Readers

What is the best thermometer for me to buy? I want a second opinion, but I don’t want to insult my pediatrician. What should I do?

By Dr. Robert B. Golenbock

What is the best thermometer for me to buy?    

First, you must decide what kind of thermometer you want. Rectal thermometers are the most accurate but the least appreciated. Taking a temperature orally is the next most accurate, but that method is not recommended in children under 4 years of age because they are unlikely to maintain a seal properly. Those same thermometers can be used under the arm, but that is easily the least accurate method. A Professional model can easily cost $100, but the truth is that pediatricians are most interested in the general condition of the child (sick or not sick). As far as temperature goes, the same idea applies -- hot or not hot. If you're not sure, anything over 100.4 F is a fever (a little lower for axillary – armpit). Here's a very good Mayo Clinic article:

The number doesn't have to be accurate as long as it accurately reads above 100.4F when the child has a fever. For young children, it also helps to know if the temperature is 104F or higher. A lot of inexpensive thermometers overread at higher temps. A mom should always have a rectal thermometer available to doublecheck when the quick read thermometers seem wonky. I would get an oral/axillary thermometer for your child and make sure whoever is using it practices to get consistent readings. And, of course, a rectal thermometer just in case.

I want a second opinion, but I don’t want to insult my pediatrician. What should I do?

Thank you for your honesty. The subject comes up a lot. Whenever a complex problem needed treatment that a parent was uncomfortable with, I used to tell parents I would be delighted if they would get a second opinion from a specialist that we both respect. First of all, the parent is more likely to be comfortable with the decision, and second of all, the parent is more likely to actually follow through with the recommendations, whether it’s medication or therapy or even surgery. Then I’d tell them there are only two outcomes really. If the specialist recommends something different from what I suggested, we both learn something. And if the specialist agrees with me, I look really smart! 

Pediatricians comfortable with their role should never shirk from looking for a second opinion. Often, we are the first to encourage a specialist to give an in-depth opinion. But just going to another pediatrician may leave you with the difficult problem of deciding which one is right. You will eventually need a higher authority anyway. The truth is that nobody can be right all the time – even me! 

If any of the readers of the Tribuna have any questions for me, please send them in to the Tribuna at You may communicate in English, Spanish, or Portuguese. 

Robert B. Golenbock, MD, is currently retired. He has cared for children in the Danbury area for 43 years, including at the Center for Pediatric Medicine. The CPM is located at 107 Newtown Rd, #1D, Danbury, CT, 06810. For more information, please call (203) 790-0822 or visit