Take a Temperature

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Taking a temperature is a relatively easy procedure, especially for non-immune compromised patients.

For immune compromised patients, follow doctor's orders. Medical professionals consider a fever when the body temperature is 99.5 and above.

This reading is for an orally taken temperature reading.


Oral Method

  1. Insert a digital thermometer inside the mouth, usually under the tongue, and wait for the thermometer to beep. A digital reading will give the body temperature.

Rectal Method

  1. Cover the tip of the digital thermometer with Vaseline.
  2. Place the child across the lap, stomach down, or on a firm surface.
  3. Gently insert the thermometer about 1/2 to 1-inches. Stop if any resistance is felt.
  4. Keep the thermometer in place by holding it between the fingers. Meanwhile, keep the hand firmly but gently on the child's bottom to prevent squirming. Once the beep sounds carefully remove the thermometer. This sounds difficult but it is fairly easy to do.

Axillary (Armpit) Method

  1. Place the digital thermometer in the armpit. Fold the arm down to cover the digital thermometer.
  2. Wait for the beep and read the recorded temperature. This is the easiest method of all.


  • Using a electronic ear thermometer or plastic strip type thermometer is not recommended. Neither provide as accurate temperature readings as the digital thermometer.
  • Using the old-fashioned glass thermometer is no longer recommended by the American Academy of Family Physicians. The AAFP made their recommendation based on the American Academy of Pediatrics concerns about possible mercury exposure.
  • Use a thermometer cover when taking a temperature. Most, if not all, digital thermometers use thermometer covers. Use the covers to keep things sanitary.
  • Use a designated digital thermometer to take rectal temperatures. This helps keep things sanitary.
  • A fever is considered when the following temperatures are recorded:

    • 100.4° Fahrenheit (38° Celsius) measured rectally
    • 99.5° Fahrenheit (37.5° Celsius) measured orally
    • 99° Fahrenheit (37.2° Celsius) measured axillary
  • A low grade fever is considered 100.4 F while a high grade fever is considered 104 degrees F. This is a general guideline.
  • Always see a medical provider if concerned about your child's welfare.
  • "The kiss" test is a somewhat valid way to check for fever. Gently kiss or lay your hand on the child's forehead. If the forehead feels warm follow up by taking the child's temperature using a digital thermometer.


  • Call your medical provider, or go to the emergency room, if a baby 3 months or younger has a rectal temperature of 100.4 F or higher.
  • Always call your medical provider, if you are concerned.
  • Follow current medical recommendations.
  • Dispose of old mercury thermometers properly. Even the tiny amount of mercury in a thermometer is enough to do a great deal of environmental harm if it is released. Contact your city about hazardous waste disposal.
  • Always sanitize thermometers immediately after you use them.

Related Tips and Steps

Sources and Citations

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