How to Properly Check Your Child’s Temperature

How to Properly Check Your Child's Temperature

Seeing your baby sick is nothing to look forward to, especially when the little one becomes grumpy and uncomfortable. Usually, the first sign of sickness is a high temperature or a fever. It might be a sign of an infection that the body is trying to fight.

However, high temperatures might also happen when the child is, in general, too warm. Babies are not yet able to regulate their body temperatures like adults. This is why you have to be careful when dressing up your little one as too many layers or being in a very warm environment can also lead to a fever.

Another possible reason for a spike in temperature is getting vaccinated and even teething. However, fevers not caused by an infection are normally lower. Once the baby’s temperature goes over 38 degrees Celsius or 100 degrees Fahrenheit, it is best to consult a doctor, especially if the little one is below 6 months of age.

Having a trusty thermometer is crucial to monitoring your child’s temperatures at any time and in the comfort of your home. It will help you determine if your baby has a fever and should be brought to the doctor as soon as possible.

There are many types of thermometers out there, with some measuring more accurately than others. When choosing which one to buy, it is not advisable to get an imprecise one because accuracy is crucial in these cases. Here are some of the options out there.

Types of Thermometers

Digital Thermometers

This is the most common type of thermometer for home use nowadays. They are inexpensive, easy to find and are multi-use. This means they can be used either orally (in the mouth), rectally (in the anus), or axillary (on the armpits). You can see a comprehensive list of baby thermometers here.

Electronic Ear Thermometers

This type is becoming quite popular because of its ease when using with a sick and fidgety baby. You basically place it on the ear so it can measure the tympanic temperature, which is the heat produced by the eardrum. Unfortunately, it is not as accurate, especially when incorrectly placed and when the little one has a buildup of earwax.

Temporal Artery Thermometers

This is also quite easy to use because the device is simply swiped over the baby’s forehead. This type measures the temperature of the blood vessels in the forehead (temporal arteries). Although not so easy to use in the beginning, with practice it can be quite precise. However, watch out for sweating, so wipe the forehead beforehand and make more than a couple of readings to check the temperature.

Pacifier Thermometers

Many moms think that this type is the easiest since the baby loves to suck on the pacifier anyway. However, it is actually quite unreliable and tough to use because the little one has to be still with the pacifier in the mouth for a few minutes.

It is important to note that traditional mercury thermometers are no longer the norm and in fact, are hazardous due to the risk of mercury leaks. Never use it on your child and instead, dispose of it safely.

How to Measure Temperature Correctly

For babies, using a digital thermometer rectally is the most accurate way to measure a fever. Make sure to purchase one that has a flexible tip, as well as a wide handle, so you do not accidentally insert it too deeply. Opt for newer ones that are able to take a reading in 10 seconds.

Before using, clean the thermometer first with alcohol or warm water with soap. After rinsing well, you may add some petroleum jelly at the end to make it easier to insert.

Prepare your baby by placing him or her on the back. When measuring rectally, this is the easiest way to do because he or she is used to this position when being changed. Once everything is set and the little one is ready, switch on the thermometer based on the guidelines. Press the thermometer afterward, going no deeper than 1 inch. You may also refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines on how to operate it.

Do your best to keep the baby still while measuring to get a precise reading. Once it beeps, you may remove it and read the temperature. Make sure you clean the thermometer after use, especially for those that have been used rectally.

You may also choose to get more than 1 reading to double-check the accuracy. Just make sure to remember that if you choose to do it both rectally and orally, for example, that the numbers can mean differently due to the normal ranges being distinctive based on how it has been done.

What to Watch Out for

It sounds so easy but it can really be tough to measure your baby’s temperature. Doing it often will make a grumpy and sick child even more unhappy. This is why a device that is accurate and easy to use should be your priority. It is also important to do the following to make sure that you are doing it right.

• To get an exact reading, do not measure after bathing your baby or after being swaddled. Both might elevate the little one’s temperature, so it’s best to wait 20 minutes before trying it out.

• Read the instructions of the thermometer before use and if possible, try it out on yourself beforehand. The booklet should also give you which temperature ranges are normal and which require a doctor’s visit as soon as possible.

• Sanitation and safety are also important, so thermometers that you use rectally should never be used orally afterward. Labels can help differentiate between different models.

• Make sure you only measure while present, as it can be dangerous leaving a child with a thermometer especially in their anal region.


In your child’s first few years of life, you can be sure of many opportunities to use that digital thermometer. Because of this, you should consider investing in a good product that has the important features you might need, like quick measurement, multi-usability and most of all, the accuracy of the readings.