Temperatures in babies (sometimes adults) are most commonly taken in the ear, mouth, bottom, under the arm, or on the forehead, when using the thermometer.
Each method is considered accurate when done correctly and Temperature readings can differ slightly depending on the method, so be sure to use the same method for consistency.
Ear measurements are mild, easy and fast, and thus preferred by many parents. However, the temperature often differs between readings, leading to the misconception that ear thermometers are inaccurate.
To reduce this effect, it’s vital to use the correct ear thermometer, especially one with a small, pre-warmed tip and positioning aid to ensure accurate readings every time.
As with other thermometers, be sure your child is sitting still before taking your reading. Remember to follow the manufacturer’s instruction when using the ear thermometer. It takes only seconds to conduct an ear reading.
- Always take the temperature in the same ear, as the reading in the right ear may naturally vary from that in the left ear.
- External factors may influence ear temperature readings, especially when an individual has:
- Been lying on one ear or the other
- Had their ears covered
- Been exposed to very hot or very cold temperatures, or
- Been recently swimming or bathing.
- In this situation, remove these external factors and wait 30 minutes prior to taking a temperature.
- If prescription eardrops or other ear-related medicines have been placed in the ear canal, use the other ear for a temperature reading.
- For precise readings, the ear must be free from obstructions or excess earwax.
- Ear thermometers should not be used in case of persons with an outer ear infection (otitis externa), as this could result in uncomfortable pain.
- Don’t take a temperature in an ear that contains blood or any drainage.
Using the forehead to take a temperature is a mild way to monitor a fever. This type of thermometers measures the infrared energy emitted from the skin above the eyebrow area and the surrounding tissue.
This energy is gathered through the lens and converted to a temperature value.
There are many types of forehead thermometers available on the market and it is important to take the temperature exactly in the way as indicated in the instruction manual to ensure accurate readings.
- Before taking a measurement, wipe off dirt or hair from the forehead area
- Place the thermometer in front of the forehead in the middle of the eyebrows either touching the forehead or up to 5 cm away using the proximity sensor and aiming light. For persons measuring their own temperature, it is advised to use the “touch” option instead of “no touch.”
- Take the measurement
- Color-coded fever indicator helps interpret the reading
NOTE: The person must be indoors for 30 minutes before taking the measurement. The patient and the thermometer should be at the same ambient temperature for up to10 minutes.
This is a direct and safe method for children of all ages.
- Make sure the child’s clothing doesn’t come between the thermometer and the skin.
- Tuck the thermometer tip high up in the armpit and hold it in place by pulling down your child’s arm and keeping it snug against his/her chest long enough to get the temperature reading.
Oral temperature taking is generally advised for children who can already easily hold the thermometer in their mouth.
- Make sure the child has not had a hot or cold drink within the last 30 minutes and sits still throughout the process.
- Mildly place the tip of the thermometer under one side of the child’s tongue, toward the back of the mouth.
- Instruct the child to hold the thermometer securely in place using its lips and hands. If you use a digital thermometer, which is stronger than a glass one, your child can bite down to hold the thermometer in place. You may have to help out the first few times by holding it firm.
- The thermometer tip should not be exposed to airflow during breathing because evaporation cools down the sensor. Have the child breathe through his/her nose.
Taking a baby’s rectal temperature is not hard and does not have to be uncomfortable for either you or the baby. There are some thermometers designed especially for rectal measurements that make it quick and easy.
- Place the baby on either its belly or back on a comfortable, flat, firm surface-across your lap, on a changing table, sofa or even on the floor.
- If on its back, hold its legs up, just as you would change its diapers. If on its belly, position it so that its bottom sticks up a bit by tucking its knees under or allowing its legs drape over your lap.
- Pat some lubricating jelly onto the short, round tip of the thermometer.
- Carefully put the thermometer tip into the rectum (anus) until the metal tip is no longer showing (approximately one centimeter).
Mercury Glass Thermometers
Although hard to read, mercury glass thermometer has been used for years to measure temperatures in the rectum, mouth or under the arm (but not the ear). They are no longer recommended because they can easily break and release toxic mercury.
Electronic Digital Thermometers
This type of thermometer offers a number of advantages over glass thermometers. They obtain temperature readings quicker, and their digital display can be easily read. There is also no risk of injury from broken glass or mercury.
This measure the heat generated by surfaces and cavities. The main advantage of this type of thermometer is its speed – it takes only seconds to obtain a temperature reading.
Infrared Ear Thermometers
This type of thermometer measures the heat generated by the eardrum and surrounding tissue. They give precise temperature on an easy-to-read digital display in just a few seconds. The ear thermometer most recommended by specialists is Braun Thermo-Scan.
Infrared Forehead Thermometers
This uses the forehead to take a temperature in a gentle way. It measures the infrared energy emitted from the skin above the eyebrow area and the surrounding tissue.
The precision of this thermometer depends on the type of technology used. Forehead thermometers can measure temperature by touching the forehead or from a distance.