Accuracy

So I went shopping recently for a thermometer. 

Have you looked in the thermometer section of a random walmart recently? It’s kind of amazing how many of them are there… almost all below about $10 for your basic oral one.

But what struck me as a bit more odd is how many of them round to the nearest 1/5 of a degree. 

Almost all of them. 98.0, 98.2, 98.4, 98.6, 98.8…. you will never have a 98.5. 

But, the basal thermometers…. in the exact same price range…. were more detailed. So, clearly it’s possible to be more accurate and still produce the cheap product.

So why wouldn’t you? Why wouldn’t you want to be a precise as possible?

Even the expensive thermal scan forehead thermometer my mother gave me when she stopped working as a school nurse still rounds to the 1/5 of a degree.

For the purpose I had, I wanted the accuracy. But I was even more shocked when I got the basal thermometer home… for less than 8 bucks…. and not only did it give me the .1, .3, .5 etc that I had expected of it… it has a hundreths place!  Your temp isn’t just 96.9 instead of being rounded to 97, it’s 96.97! 

As trivial as this really seems, it amazed me. It seriously did. 

I’ve never stopped to think about it before I guess. 

I suppose it probably makes things easier for doctors to have them rounded. Temps aren’t exactly a precise thing anyways as they shift so easily… and they probably are mostly just lumped into large categories like “high but not serious”, or “serious, but just watch” enough that it probably wouldn’t matter even if they rounded more than they do. 

Not to mention the calls from random first time parents because their kid’s fever went up from something.13 to something.54

But… really…. I want to know the precise number. Even if it doesn’t make that huge of a difference. And I guess I’m really surprised to suddenly realize something I’d taken for the only option really wasn’t.

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One thought on “Accuracy

  1. philangelus says:

    A basal thermometer won’t read fevers well, though. The price you pay for the hundredths of a degree is that you shouldn’t temp above 101 with them. (At least, that’s what the rule was when I bought mine about seven years ago.)

    Apparenlty if the temperature got too high, it would warp the transducers or something and it wouldn’t work any longer.

    I haven’t taken my kids’ temperatures for a long time now. I usually use the “kiss test” to figure out if a doctor call is necessary…

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