Childr Health Information

Fever - Temperature Taking

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Topic: General Child Health

This handout was written to answer some of the questions you may have about taking your child’s temperature. Please feel free to ask your child’s doctor or nurse to go over any information you do not understand.

If your child appears sick, you may want to take his or her temperature. Fever is a sign of illness. However, small babies’ temperatures will sometimes drop rather than rise when they are sick.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) no longer recommends using a glass mercury thermometer due to safety issues with mercury and broken glass. Alternatives that are both safe and accurate include digital thermometers that can be used in the mouth (orally), in the bottom (rectally), under the arm (axillary) or in the ear (tympanic). Whichever one you choose, be sure you know how to use it correctly so that you get an accurate reading.

Under the arm (axillary) – for children birth to 2 years or anytime your child cannot hold a thermometer in their mouth:
1. Turn thermometer on. Hold the thermometer snuggly in the armpit (touching skin only, not clothing).
2. Hold the thermometer there until it beeps. Read and record the number onthe screen.
In the mouth (orally) - for children 2 years of age or older and can hold a thermometer in their mouth:
1. Hold your child or have your child get in a comfortable position.
2. Place thermometer well back in his or her mouth under the tongue.
3. Have your child keep his or her lips closed but not bite down on the thermometer.
4. The thermometer will beep when done. Remove the thermometer and read it.
Note: An oral temperature will not be as accurate if your child has had something hot or cold to eat or drink in the last 15 minutes.
In the bottom (rectally) - for children birth to 2 years or when you cannot obtain an axillary temperature:
1. Moisten lower portion of thermometer with Vaseline® or KY Jelly (see thermometer package insert for recommended lubricant).
2. Place child in comfortable position. Spread the buttocks with one hand to expose the rectal opening. Hold your child firmly so he or she cannot move.
3. Gently insert the tip of the thermometer into the rectum ½ - 1 inch. Stop at less than ½ inch if you feel resistance.
4. Gently remove the thermometer when it beeps or other signal that the temperature has been read. Record temperature.
Note: If resistance is met, clean the thermometer and use another method (axillary, orally or tympanic).
In the ear (tympanic) - for children 6 months and older:
1. Gently pull the child’s ear back and downward.
2. Place the thermometer tip (cone shape) into the ear opening and push the start button.
3. Follow the directions provided with the thermometer.
Note: Ear infections or wax buildup could affect an accurate reading.
Plastic Strip Thermometers:
These thermometers are plastic strips that change color in response to temperature changes. To use, place the strip on your child’s forehead until color changes occur; usually about 10-15 seconds. However, these strips have been found to be inaccurate.

It is important to understand that a “normal” temperature may be different for each child. Body temperatures change with activity, emotional stress, types of clothing worn and air temperature.
• Oral and axillary temperatures normally range from 96.8-99.3° F or 36-37.4° C.
• Rectal temperatures normally range from 97-100.4° F or 36.2-38° C.

1. Your baby under 3 months of age has a temperature over 100.4°F (38°C).
2. Your premature baby has a temperature over 100.4°F (38°) (even if he or she is older than three months).
3. Your baby has a temperature over 100.4°F (38°) and/or the following symptoms:
• irritability (crying or fussy)
• poor feeding
• floppy or listless
• difficult breathing
• coughing
• does not look good
4. Your baby has a temperature less than 97°F (36.1°C).
5. If your child feels hot to touch and you are unable to read a thermometer.
6. Fever is present for more than 3 days.
7. There are seizures with the fever.
• After use, wipe the digital thermometer with a soapy cotton ball or tissue and rinse with cold water.
• Store all thermometers in a safe place out of the reach of children.
• Never leave your child unattended while taking his or her temperature.

From Centigrade (C) to Fahrenheit (F)
36.0 96.8 38.0 100.4
36.1 97.0 38.2 100.8
36.2 97.2 38.4 101.2
36.3 97.4 38.6 101.6
36.4 97.6 39.0 102.2
36.5 97.8 39.2 102.6
36.6 98.0 39.4 103.0
36.8 98.4 39.6 103.4
37.0 98.6 39.8 103.8
37.2 99.0 40.0 104.0
37.4 99.4 40.2 104.4
37.6 99.8 40.4 104.8
37.8 100.2 40.8 105.6


Derechos de autor(c) de The Children's Medical Center, ano 1999. Este material unicamente tiene fines educativos. No puede ser reproducido, distribuido ni modificado sin previa autorizacion de The Children's Medical Center of Dayton, One Children's Plaza, Dayton, Ohio, 45404-1815. Llame al 937-641-3666 para solicitar autorizacion o para obtener un juego maestro para copias. Para obtener mas informacion puede visitar (consulte la seccion de informacion legal).

La informacion contenida en este material es unicamente informacion de tipo general. No debe considerarse como completa. Para obtener mas informacion acerca de los complementos para leche materna, por favor pidala a su doctor.

The information contained in this handout is for general information only and should not be considered complete. For specific information about bathing your baby, please ask your doctor or nurse practitioner.

Additional information may be located in the Family Resource Center, 2nd floor, near the Outpatient Surgery Center. Hours of the center vary; please contact the Family Resource Center at 937-641-3700.

Copyright(c) The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. This material is for educational purposes only. It cannot be reproduced or distributed without permission from Dayton Children's.


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