Thermometer Types and Temperatures: A Guide for Parents

The easiest way to measure your child’s temperature is with a digital thermometer. These are available at most pharmacies. There are other types of thermometers, including the mercury-in-glass type, digital, ear thermometers, and pacifier type thermometers. Some glass thermometers contain mercury, which is toxic – do not use a glass thermometer for your baby or child.

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Thermometer Types and Temperatures: A Guide for Parents

Five Ways To Take A Child’s Temperature

  • Orally
  • Rectal
  • Axillary (under the armpit)
  • Tympanic (in the ear)
  • Temporal artery (forehead)

Do not use a rectal thermometer in the mouth or an oral thermometer in the rectum. Always wash any thermometer with soap and warm water before and after use.

Best Way To Take A Temperature According To The Age Of Your Child

Newborns To 2 Years Old

The most accurate way to take a baby’s temperature is with a thermometer inserted into the anus (rectal temperature). If this is not possible, you may insert it under the arm

Children Aged 2 To 5

For toddlers aged 2 to 5, a rectal temperature is the most accurate but may be difficult. Ear temperature or armpit method can also be used.

Children Over 5 Years Of Age

For children over 5, take a temperature by the mouth. Ear or under the arm can also be used depending on what the easiest will be for the person doing it.

Temperature reading

Taking A Temperature Orally

Taking a temperature in the mouth works with children who are old enough to hold the thermometer under their tongue and who will not bite the thermometer. Make sure your child has not had a cold or hot drink in the 30 minutes before taking their temperature. Fever is an oral temperature of 37.8°C or more.

Taking A Rectal Temperature

Using the rectal method works best on babies and young children. Older children may resist having something put in their bum. A rectal temperature of 38°C or higher means a fever.

Armpit Temperature

To take a temperature in the armpit, your child must be able to hold his or her arm to the body and not move it for about 4 or 5 minutes. Fever is an armpit temperature of 37.2°C or more.

Ear Method Using A Tympanic Thermometer

Tympanic thermometers are NOT recommended for children under one year of age. These thermometers use infrared to take the temperature in your child’s eardrum. Always clean the thermometer tip before using and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. An ear temperature of 37.5°C or higher means a fever.

Temporal Artery

Temporal artery thermometers are a non-invasive way to measure body temperature by scanning the surface of the forehead. They are often used as a preliminary screening tool for fever. However, if the temperature reading is higher than normal (greater than 38° C), it is recommended to use a more accurate type of thermometer. It is important to note that temporal artery thermometers should not be used on infants.

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  1. Very useful info! My daughter is 10.5 months old and ive always been taking her rectal temp – always gives me the most accurate reading.

  2. I also do the armpit, I’m to scared I hurt him doing the rectal temp! Never thought to do my older son temp in his mouth, he is old enough to hold it under his tongue now. 🙂

  3. We also do the armpit, waaaay 2 scared for the rectal lol

  4. One of the best gifts I received when I had my son (almost 7 years ago) was a digital thermometer. Still using it. Received one with a flexible point this year for my daughter. Its great to use under her arm even while she wriggles around. No household should be without a thermometer. This blog was very useful! Thank you 🙂

  5. Bookmarked!

  6. We also do the armpit

  7. Im so scared that she will get a fever and i dont know when its time to go to emergencies.
    I bought Empaped just to keep it in her first aid kit.

  8. @lynne also agree my little boy is so busy we also do the underarm i have a normal clinical thermometer type and works perfect my medical aid was so kind they send me one as well in my baby bag with nail clipper ect.

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