Correct Ways To Take Your Baby's Temperature
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What is the best way to take a baby's temperature? Also, how does a rectal temp differ in degrees from an oral or under the arm temperature? Should I invest in one of those ear thermometers? Thanks! - Beth, Albuquerque NM
The Pediatrician Answers:
There is probably not a "best" way to take a baby's temperature. Although rectal temps are the traditional "gold standard" for hospitals, they are not the optimal way of taking a baby's temperature at home, due to potential complications if the temperature-taker's technique is not good. The ear, forehead, or pacifier thermometers are fine for screening infants for the presence of fever. If a physician's office or ER wants to recheck the temperature, they can use a different method. The rectal temp is usually slightly higher than a more external method.
Knowing a patient's exact temperature is generally not critical. Most of the time, the physician will be interested in knowing only whether the temperature is normal (97-99F), slightly high (100-101F), medium-high (102-103F), or high (104-105F or more). The presence of other symptoms and the child's general appearance are far more important than the exact temperature.
If a parent finds the ear thermometers useful and easy to use, then purchasing one makes sense. They may be somewhat less accurate in a young infant (less than 2 months old), but are generally quite satisfactory in most children and adults.