Do you need to worry if thermometer breaks in the mouth?

Today’s article is a requested article for the fact of whether one needs to worry about if the thermometer breaks in the mouth. This solution is especially for thermometers with mercury.

What treatment should be immediately done if the thermometer breaks in the mouth?

Should you consult a doctor immediately or can it be treated at home?

Do you need to be worried?

Mercury poisoning in Minamata

Thermometers consist of mercury which is a poison and is very dangerous for health. We all know about mercury poisoning in Minamata, Japan, where mercury along with industrial waste from factories was dumped in the water. People who consumed this water died. There were about 2000 deaths and many more reports of injuries.

Think it in this way: what happens if the mercury present in the thermometer breaks down in your mouth while checking your body temperature?

Getting goosebumps right?

You don’t need to worry about this. This article will clear all your doubts related to this query.

Types of mercury

Mercury is basically of three types

  1. Organic mercury
  2. Inorganic mercury
  3. Element mercury (Metallic mercury)

Facts about mercury that you should know

  • Element mercury is used in our thermometers.
  • Thermometers consist of 0.61g of mercury.
  • The melting point of mercury used in thermometers is -38.83 degrees celsius.
  • Mercury gets its name from the Greek word Hydragyrum where Hydra means water and Gyrum means silver.
  • The density of mercury is 13.56 gram per cubic centimeter. 

Why mercury is used in thermometers?

There are basically three reasons why mercury is used in thermometer.

  1. Because of mercury’s melting point – Other elements when heated expands and contract when cooled down but mercury because of its great melting point is appropriate for the thermometer.
  2. Because of its color – Mercury is bright silver colored as a result readings can be taken easily.
  3. Because of its density – Mercury’s density is quite high. As a result, when shaken in the thermometer the mercury level goes down to its original state. The thermometer is ready to take temperature readings again.

Why mercury is bad for health?

Mercury basically enters our body through 4 processes.

  1. By skin absorption
  2. By eating
  3. By drinking
  4. By inhale

Organic mercury is the most dangerous mercury if compared to inorganic and element mercury. Element mercury is the safest one. 

Effects of mercury on our health

  1. Mercury crosses our blood-brain barrier and causes DNA and brain damage.
  2. Mercury in the body leads to cancer and ALS.
  3. Mercury also causes Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
  4. Cardiomyopathy.
  5. Makes heart tissues stiff and thick.
  6. Disturbs kidney function.
  7. Abdomen problems.
  8. Mental health status goes down.

Is the mercury present in thermometers safe?

Thermometers consist of the element mercury which is the safest type of mercury compared to organic and inorganic mercury. 

The thermometer consists of 0.61 gm element mercury. This mercury is very slippy. If you swallow the thermometer’s mercury by mistake, it has been proven that it has no side effects. Element mercury in the thermometer is considered safe because it consists of a very less amount of mercury.

Harmful effects of mercury can be seen if 500 grams of mercury is consumed in a single bowel. So you don’t need to worry if you have swallowed element mercury from the broken thermometer in your mouth.

But it may have some minor side effects which are seen in rare cases.

  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation

If certain side effects are seen, you should definitely consult your nearby doctor or consult the National Poison Information Center

National Poison Information Centre – 1800116117 – toll-free number

Worry about the glass, not the mercury in thermometers

So, we can see the mercury present in thermometers is safe. But there is something else you need to worry about “the glass particles”. Yes, you heard it right, if you have broken a thermometer while checking the temperature in your mouth then you should be careful of the glass particles the broken thermometer had.

Immediately try taking the glass particles out from your mouth and if by chance if you swallowed the glass particles of the broken thermometer immediately consult your doctor. 


As we can see, the mercury in the thermometer does not have any major disadvantages for your health. There are several myths about broken thermometers and how they can cause severe health problems. You should not pay any heed to this and also be careful at handling thermometers.


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