Digital thermometers can be used to measure rectal, oral, or axillary (under the armpit) temperatures. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend use of mercury thermometers (glass), and they encourage parents to remove mercury thermometers from their households to prevent accidental exposure to this toxin.
Measuring an axillary (under the armpit) temperature for fever:
Axillary temperatures are not as accurate as rectal or oral measurements, and these generally measure one degree lower than a simultaneously obtained oral temperature.
- Place the tip of the digital thermometer in your child’s armpit.
- Leave in place about one minute or until you hear a beep to check a digital reading.
Measuring fever by eardrum temperature:
Tympanic (ear) thermometers must be placed correctly in your child’s ear to be accurate. Too much earwax can cause the reading to be incorrect.
Eardrum temperature measurements are not accurate in small children and should not be used in children under 3 years (36 months) of age. This is especially true in infants below 3 months of age when obtaining an accurate temperature is very important.
Measuring fever by oral temperature:
Children 4 to 5 years old and adults can have their temperature taken with a digital thermometer under the tongue with their mouth closed.
- Clean the thermometer with soapy water or rubbing alcohol and rinse.
- Turn the thermometer on and place the tip of the thermometer as far back under the tongue as possible.
- The thermometer should remain in place for about one minute or until you hear the beep. Check the digital reading.
Avoid hot or cold drinks within 15 minutes of oral temperature measurement to ensure correct readings.
Measuring fever by rectal temperature:
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends rectal temperature measurements for children under 3 years, as this gives the most accurate reading of core temperature.
- Clean the thermometer with soapy water or rubbing alcohol and rinse with cool water.
- Use a small amount of lubricant, such as petroleum jelly, on the end.
- Place the child prone (belly-side down) on a firm surface, or place your child face up and bend his legs to his chest.
- After separating the buttocks, insert the thermometer approximately ½ to 1 inch into the rectum. Do not inset it too far.
- Hold the thermometer in place, loosely keeping your hand cupped around your child’s bottom, and keep your fingers on the thermometer to avoid it accidently sliding further into the rectum. Keep it there for about one minute, until you hear the beep.
- Remove the thermometer, and check the digital reading.
- Label the rectal thermometer so it’s not accidentally used in the mouth.
A rectal temperature will read approximately one degree higher than a simultaneously obtained oral temperature.
Fever is an important part of the body’s defense against infection. Most bacteria and viruses that cause infections in humans thrive best at 98.6F. Raising the body temperature a few degrees can help the body fight the infection. In addition, a fever activates the body’s immune system to make more white blood cells, antibodies, and other infection-fighting agents.
Fever is an important part of the body’s defense against infection. Most bacteria and viruses that cause infections in humans thrive best at 98.6°F. Raising the body temperature a few degrees can help the body fight the infection. In addition, a fever activates the body’s immune system to make more white blood cells, antibodies, and other infection-fighting agents.
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