Buyers Guide

Thermometers and Temperature Monitors for Newborns

Importance of Temperature Monitoring for Sick and Premature Newborns

Hypothermia is a significant factor in global neonatal mortality, often as a comorbidity of pre-term birth, severe infections, and asphyxia. When hypothermia goes undetected and untreated, it can lead to devastating health consequences for newborns, especially pre-term and very small babies. Timely and accurate temperature monitoring enables health care workers and caregivers to effectively detect and manage thermoregulation for the newborn.

It is essential to keep newborn babies warm and help them to achieve thermoregulation in order to prevent morbidities and mortality associated with hypothermia- and in cases where a neonate may be receiving thermoregulation support with radiant warmers, incubators, or other devices (see Buyers Guide for thermoregulation technologies), temperature monitoring also plays a critical role to ensure that the baby does not rewarm too rapidly (>0.5 °C per hour) and enter “thermal shock” which can result in increased brain injury and seizures.

Although temperature is critical for detecting hypothermia, other vital signs are very important to diagnose and manage other medical conditions; these include respiratory rate, electrocardiogram (ECG), and blood oxygen saturation (1). For other vital signs monitors, please see our Buyers Guide for Vital Signs Monitors

Types of Thermometers and Temperature Monitors

Although temperature measurements are most accurate from a central internal site such as a pulmonary artery, rectum, or bladder, accessing these sites, particularly among newborns and especially with pre-term babies, is more invasive and less practical. Temperature can also be monitored at a peripheral site such as the tympanic membrane (forehead), oral cavity or axilla (armpit), and wearable monitors can detect temperature elsewhere on the body.

There are several different types thermometers for newborns, each with specific advantages and disadvantages:

Key Considerations When Selecting a Thermometer or Temperature Monitor

  • Accuracy. Any thermometer and temperature monitor should be accurate (±0.5°C clinical accuracy)
  • Digital versus Mercury. Digital thermometers are the most accurate and mercury thermometers are dangerous (environmental toxin) especially if they break
  • Spot checking versus continuous. Thermometers are more appropriate for spot checking, taking an infant’s temperature every 3-6 hours to monitor fever, treatment, and deterioration or improvement. Continuous temperature monitors, however, can more immediately detect dangerous changes in temperature, which can be useful in busy nurseries or for caregivers at home.
  • Storage and memory. For digital thermometers or temperature monitors, storing recorded temperatures can help providers or caregivers identify trends and track temperature changes over time
  • Battery type and cover: Electronic thermometers may contain button cell batteries, which can unintentionally be swallowed by small children, so make sure battery covers are secure.
  • Consumables. Temperature monitors (continuous) should not require consumables and be durable and reliable (charge and power) to sufficiently monitor over a 24-hour period

VIA Global Health is committed to supporting health systems access affordable and appropriate medical products to improve the health in their communities. Products included in our Buyers Guides are available for purchase at VIA Global Health.

References and Acknowledgments

(1) World Health Organization. Interventions to prevent hypothermia at birth in preterm and/or low-birth-weight infants. Available here


(2) Sosa Saenz SE, Hardy MK, Heenan M, et al. Evaluation of a continuous neonatal temperature monitor for low-resource settings: a device feasibility pilot study. BMJ Paediatr Open. 2020;4(1):e000655. Published 2020 May 7. doi:10.1136/bmjpo-2020-000655