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Taking a temperature at different sites

Rectal temperatures

Rectal temperatures are typically recommended for infants since the readings are the most accurate measure of core body temperature. Despite the dread that many new parents often experience, taking an infant’s rectal temperature is not that difficult and doesn’t have to be uncomfortable for baby or parent. There are some thermometers designed especially for rectal measurements that make it fast, easy, and more comfortable.

  • Lay baby on either his belly or back on a comfortable, but firm, flat surface -- across your lap, on a changing table, sofa or even on the floor.
  • If on his back, hold baby’s legs up just as you would if changing a diaper. If on his belly, position so that his bottom sticks up a bit by tucking his knees under or letting his legs drape over your lap.
  • Dab some lubricating jelly onto the short, round tip of the thermometer.
  • Carefully insert the thermometer tip into the rectal (anal) opening until the metal tip is no longer showing (approximately 1/2”).
  • Once you’ve used your thermometer to take a rectal temperature, make a mental note so that you (or others) don’t accidentally use that same thermometer for other types of temperature taking without proper cleaning, using hot soapy water or rubbing alcohol.
  • Consider purchasing more than one thermometer so that one is designated “For rectal use only.”
  • Temperature reading
  • A reading of 100.4°F or higher is generally considered a fever.

Underarm temperatures

This is a safe and straight-forward method for toddlers on up.

  • Make sure the child’s clothing doesn’t come between the thermometer and the skin.
  • Tuck the thermometer tip high up in the armpit and hold it in place by lowering the child’s arm and keeping it snug against the chest long enough to secure the temperature reading.
  • Temperature reading
  • A reading of 99.0°F or higher is generally considered a fever.

Thermometers made from mercury and glass have long been replaced with electronic versions due to environmental and safety factors. If you have a mercury thermometer in your home, please contact the local health department as soon as possible about how to properly dispose of it.

Oral temperatures

Oral temperature taking is generally recommended for children who are at least 4 or 5 years of age and can easily hold the thermometer in their mouth. When taking an oral temperature:

  • Make sure that your child has not had a cold or hot drink within the last 30 minutes and sits still for the duration of taking the temperature.
  • Gently place the tip of the thermometer under one side of the tongue and toward the back.
  • Teach your child to hold the thermometer securely in place using both his lips and his (or your) hands. Unlike glass thermometers, digital thermometers can easily withstand biting, which helps hold the thermometer in place.
  • A reading of 99.5°F or higher is generally considered a fever.
Why measure in the ear?

Ear temperatures

Ear thermometer measurements are preferred by parents because they are gentle, easy and fast. However, most ear thermometer measurements vary between readings, leading to a misconception that ear thermometers are not accurate. It’s very important to use the right ear thermometer. Look for an ear thermometer with a small, pre-warmed tip with a positioning guidance system to ensure accurate readings every time.

  • The ear is an easily accessible site, making ear thermometers are simple to use. As with any thermometer, be sure your child is sitting still before taking a reading.
  • Ear readings are complete in seconds, with Braun ThermoScan you don’t need to take a second reading and can trust it’s accurate the first time. Other ear thermometers without this advanced technology can lead to varied readings when taken one after the other.
  • A reading of 100.4°F or higher is generally considered a fever.

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