How to Take a Baby’s Temperature

When an inflammatory process occurs in a baby’s body, his/her immune system starts to fight intensely. This is the fight against infections, which causes the temperature to increase. However, how do you know that the child is sick and has fever, if he/she himself/herself is unable to say anything yet? It is possible to determine a baby’s temperature by at least several methods.


What types of thermometers are there?

To begin with, the child’s body is very different from the body of an adult person. That is why temperature parameters for new-borns have their own “normal range”. Your baby can overheat very quickly if he/she is dressed too warm, and just as quickly freeze if his/her legs and arms are not wrapped carefully. In addition, when your baby is sleeping, his temperature is usually lower compared to when he/she is awake.

To determine a new-born’s temperature, it is important first to choose the type of the thermometer that will measure it. So, there are the following 4 types of thermometers:

  • A mercury thermometer (glass) for holding in the armpit or inserting into the rectum. This device is considered the most accurate, and its measuring scale is simple and understandable. This thermometer has a disadvantage – a glass tube requiring careful handling, as well as the presence of mercury inside, evaporation of which causes harm to the human body. Thus, in case of loss of integrity of such device, one should immediately dispose it and call an emergency service to remove the mercury residues from the room. The mercury thermometer can measure a baby’s temperature in 5 or 7 minutes (in the rectum or in the armpit, respectively)
  • An electronic thermometer makes it possible to measure temperature just in 3–4 minutes. This device is safe, easy-to-use, and convenient. After determining a baby’s temperature, the thermometer makes a sound signal. This thermometer can be used to measure oral temperature, as well as axillary or rectal temperature. The electronic thermometer has a disadvantage – a measurement error of up to 1 degree. In addition, such thermometer will require battery replacement once in a while
  • A pacifier thermometer resembles an ordinary dummy for babies. These devices are made of high-quality and safe materials; however, it is better not to give such device to children who are not yet familiar with a pacifier. The thermometer in the form of a dummy measures a baby’s temperature in 4 minutes
  • An infrared thermometer is the most up-to-date type of thermometers that enables measuring a baby’s temperature by simply touching baby’s ear, forehead, or temples for a few seconds. Disadvantages of such thermometer include not entirely high precision of data and significant difference in price as compared with its analogues (it is much more expensive)


How to take a baby’s temperature?

After you have chosen the thermometer, you should decide which way to measure a baby’s temperature. There are the following methods of measurement:

  • Axillary (when the child is laid on his/her back, his/her arm is raised, and clothes are removed from it, the thermometer is held closely to the body (under the arm) for about 7 minutes (if it is a mercury thermometer) or until the thermometer gives a sound signal (if it is an electronic one)
  • Auricular (a baby’s earlobe is gently pulled back and slightly upwards, then after getting sight of the tympanic membrane in the ear canal, the thermometer probe is carefully placed inside the ear, and after the temperature has been taken, the thermometer is just as carefully removed out of it)
  • Oral (a pacifier thermometer is put into the baby’s mouth for a few minutes – other thermometers do not suit this purpose, as their use would be inconvenient and dangerous)
  • Rectal (when a baby is laid on his/her back, his/her legs are raised and knees are slightly bent, the thermometer tip lubricated with a baby cream or Vaseline is slowly and carefully inserted at most 2 cm into the rectum, and after the temperature has been taken, the thermometer is just as carefully removed out of the rectum)



Helpful advice

  • In order to measure a baby’s temperature accurately, you should know which temperature value is normal for your child. How to find this out? Try to take temperature under resting conditions before sleep or after the baby wakes up, when he/she is healthy, and record these parameters. There is no need to take temperature every day – this procedure is extremely important only when your child is really sick. It may also happen that in such a way, your baby may develop negative perception of a thermometer
  • Do not forget that after rectal temperature measurement, it is absolutely necessary to properly disinfect the tip of the thermometer. Also, remember that parameters taken from the rectum are usually slightly higher than axillary temperature parameters. Thus, it is better to be guided by a lower result
  • Before measuring a baby’s temperature, make sure that he/she was in a calm state for at least several minutes prior to that. If, however, your child has been moving, laughing, or crying a moment ago, the temperature measurement procedure should be postponed for some time
  • Your baby’s body temperature can increase without cause during feeding, as well as at the end of the day. To make sure that your baby is really sick, observe his/her behaviour and the general condition throughout the day, and take temperature several times (for instance, in the morning, at lunchtime or before bedtime)


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15.3.18  23:26