Measuring a Baby’s Temperature

Taking a Baby’s Temperature

What type of thermometer should you use?

Always use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature.
Never use a mercury thermometer. A digital thermometer makes taking a baby’s temperature
simple with quick results. Other types of thermometers may not be accurate for newborns.
These include tympanic (ear) thermometers. They need to be carefully placed to get
a
precise reading. Skin strips that are pressed on the skin to measure temperature are
not
advised for babies. And keep in mind that touching a baby’s skin can let you know
if he
or she is warm or cool. But you can’t measure body temperature simply by touch.

Where should you take a baby’s
temperature?

There are 3 main places to take a baby’s temperature:

  • In the rectum. For best results
    in babies and toddlers up to 3 years of age, the American Academy of Pediatrics
    advises taking the temperature in the rectum. This is done by placing a
    thermometer in the baby’s anus. This method is accurate and gives a quick reading
    of the baby’s internal temperature. For infants and toddlers, be sure to use a
    rectal thermometer correctly. A rectal thermometer may accidentally poke a hole in
    (perforate) the rectum. It may also pass on germs from the stool. Follow the
    product maker’s directions for proper use. If you don’t feel OK taking a rectal
    temperature, use another method.
  • On the forehead. A newer method
    to take a temperature is called temporal artery thermometry. This is also very
    accurate. It measures the temperature of the blood flowing through the temporal
    artery, on the forehead. This causes less discomfort than a rectal thermometer.
    It’s also less stressful to a newborn.
  • In the armpit. This is called
    axillary measurement. It may be used as a first way of checking to see if a child
    may have a fever. If this shows a fever, the temperature should then be checked by
    rectum or forehead.

Tips for taking a rectal
temperature

Oral and rectal thermometers have
different shapes and one should not be substituted for the other. Don’t use oral
thermometers rectally as these can cause injury. Rectal thermometers have a security
bulb designed specifically for safely taking rectal temperatures.

  • Place the baby across your
    lap or changing table, on his or her belly, facing down. Place your hand nearest
    the baby’s head on his or her lower back. Push apart the baby’s buttocks with your
    thumb and forefinger.

  • Using your other hand, gently
    insert the lubricated bulb end of the thermometer 1/2 to 1 inch, or just past the
    anal muscle.

  • Point thermometer towards
    the child’s belly button.

  • Hold the thermometer with 1
    hand on the baby’s buttocks so the thermometer will move with the baby. Use the
    other hand to comfort the baby and prevent moving.

  • Never leave a baby unattended
    with a rectal thermometer inserted.

  • Hold the thermometer until it
    beeps or signals.

  • Remove the thermometer.

  • Wipe the bulb.

  • Read it right away. Write
    down the number.

  • Clean the thermometer with
    soap and water or rubbing alcohol.

Tips for taking a forehead
temperature

  • Place the thermometer sensor
    in the middle of the baby’s forehead.

  • Press and hold the scan
    button.

  • Slowly move the thermometer
    across the forehead toward the top of the baby’s ear. Make sure it always touches
    the skin.

  • Stop at the hairline. Release
    the scan button.

  • Read the temperature.

When to call the healthcare provider

Call your baby’s healthcare provider if a baby’s rectal or forehead
temperature is 100.4°F (38°C) or higher. Tell him or her which method you used to
take
your child’s temperature.