Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Evolution of Thermometers

The day after the Color Me Rad 5K, G came down with whatever bug I had. She woke up Sunday with a sore throat. Throughout the day she napped and was not interested in her usual weekend shenanigans. Her forehead felt warm so I dug out the digital thermometer which reads temperatures in eight seconds. Of course, sticking anything other than a toothbrush or candy into a youngster's mouth is met with a fight.

The first reading was about 102. Wow really? I took it again. It stopped around 101.5 then the numbers quickly climbed to 102.9. Whoaaaa! I performed a third reading. The same thing happened: reading stopped at 101.5 and then, oddly, zipped to 103.2. Ack! The thermometer's alarm went off and the screen flashed red. Hmmm. Well, regardless, she's sick so I gave her a dose of children's Advil. After some basic troubleshooting, I sent T to get a replacement thermometer since the device was acting strange. "Ask the pharmacy for a recommendation," were my instructions.

The pharmacy recommends the temporal thermometers like hospitals and doctors' offices use. At ten bucks it's about the same price as digital thermometers, and they are more accurate. Plus there's no refusal over an object in her mouth; just slap it against the side of her head. I can do it while she sleeps!

This process got me thinking about the evolution of thermometers. I used glass mercury thermometers when I was a kid. They're considered sinful to use now, due to the risk of mercury exposure if the tube broke. But back then, they were advanced technology. And every kid, desperate to play hookey, placed one against an incandescent light bulb. Ah! the fond memories of the poisonous glass stick! As a tiny tot, temperature was taken under my arm. As I grew, however, it was customary to change tactics: mouth readings. Mom shook it, ran the water over it, and popped it under my tongue where it remained for-ev-er! The thermometer had to practically poke my tonsils for a proper reading, enhancing discomfort. If mom thought it read too low, it went back in. If she thought it read too high, it went back in. When it showed the number she expected she'd say, "Yep, just what I thought." Mother's intuition was always right, I suppose.

At some point, digital thermometers hit the market. They worked the same way, in the mouth, yet came with so-called advantages. First, it was fast. Instead of forever, it only took half of forever. (Hey, any improvement is welcome!) Second, instead of straining to read a bubble of liquid against etched numbers, it gave a foolproof, digital reading. Third, they were safer. No glass to break or calls to Mr. Yuck. There were also thermometer tip covers for sanitation. Ugh! I hated those! The thick seams scratched my mouth, like a paper cut. There was always the worry that perhaps the cover didn't give an accurate reading. I was forced to endure another reading, this time without the cover. Poke poke poke! The first digital models were bulky. A cord connected the thermometer to the display unit which was about the size of a paperback. Eventually, battery operated ones emerged, with a reading in seconds.

The next new thing were ear thermometers, followed of course, by temporal models. These new devices are easy to use, but where's the fun and drama that came from the good-old-days?!

Copyrighted 2016 by Jennifer E. Miller

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