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Taking Your Child’s Temperature

Taking Your Child’s Temperature

Nothing rattles a new mom or dad more than when baby has a fever. Fortunately, there are many ways to take a baby’s temperature. A digital thermometer offers a quick and accurate way to take a child’s temperature with a minimum of fuss.

To take a rectal temperature
  • Lubricate the tip of the thermometer with petroleum jelly.
  • Insert the lubricated thermometer into the anal opening about ½ inch to 1 inch (about 1.25 to 2.5 centimeters). Stop if you feel any resistance.
  • Steady the thermometer between your second and third fingers as you cup your hand against your baby’s bottom. Soothe your child and speak quietly as you hold the thermometer in place.
  • Wait until you hear the appropriate number of beeps or other signal that the temperature is ready to be read.
To take an oral temperature
  • Wait 20 to 30 minutes after your child finishes eating or drinking to take an oral temperature.
  • Place the tip of the thermometer under the tongue and ask your child to close his or her lips around it. Remind your child not to bite down or talk, and to relax and breathe normally through the nose.
  • Wait until you hear the appropriate number of beeps or other signal that the temperature is ready to be read.
To take an auxiliary temperature
  • Though not as accurate as oral or rectal, auxiliary methods (armpit or the ear) are easy and sometimes a good way to test while out on the go.
  • Never take a child’s temperature right after a bath or if he or she has been bundled tightly for a while — this can affect the temperature reading.
Call your doctor when
  • Your baby is younger than 3 months and has a temperature of 100.4° F (38° C) or higher.
  • Your older child (over three months old) has a temperature of 102.2° F (39° C) or higher. Most pediatricians only accept rectal temperature readings.
  • Your pediatrician may have different advice for when to call about a fever so be sure to ask your pediatrician for his or her specific guidelines. Always follow the recommendations and advice of your pediatrician.