Correct Ways To Take Your Baby's Temperature

by Linda Shaw, MD What do you want to know? Come ask the experts! A selection of answers to your questions...
by Linda Shaw, MD

What do you want to know? Come ask the experts! A selection of answers to your questions will be regularly posted on the site. For instant gratification, click here to see what other questions have already been answered. Something not here that you want to know? Well come on -- ask your question! The question:
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

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