How To Take An Oral Temperature

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:

  • An oral temperature (TEM-per-uh-cher) is when your mouth is used to take your temperature. A thermometer (ther-MOM-uh ter) is used to take your temperature.You may need to take an oral temperature to learn if you or a family member have a fever. A person should be 5 years or older to have a temperature taken in the mouth. The normal oral temperature for adults is about 98.6° F (37° C). A normal child's temperature is between 97.6° (36.4° C) and 99.3° F (37.4° C). The normal oral temperature for older persons is 96.8° F (36° C).

  • There are different kinds of oral thermometers. A digital thermometer is a small hand-held device with a window showing your temperature in numbers. Most digital thermometers can measure your body temperature in less than a minute. Digital thermometers are available at grocery, drug, or medical supply stores. Glass thermometers with alcohol or galinstan (GAL-in-stan) may also be used to check an oral temperature. These thermometers contain red or blue alcohol or galinstan which is silver-colored.

  • In the past, mercury thermometers were used. This thermometer is a thin glass tube with a silver tip and line. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and other organizations warn against using mercury thermometers. If the thermometer breaks, mercury may be breathed or absorbed (soaked) into your skin. Exposure to the mercury from a broken glass mercury thermometer can be very harmful. If you have a glass mercury thermometer and it breaks do not throw it into the trash. Do not touch the thermometer or the mercury. To find out what to do if your glass mercury thermometer breaks contact the following:
  • 24-Hour Nationwide Poison Control Hotline
    National Capital Poison Center
    3201 New Mexico Avenue, Suite 310
    Washington , DC 20016
    Phone: 1- 800 - 222-1222
    Web Address: http://www.poison.org

AFTER YOU LEAVE:

Take your medicine as directed:

Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

How do I use a digital thermometer?

There should not be anything hot or cold in your mouth for 10 minutes before taking your temperature.

  • Take the thermometer out of its holder.

  • Put the tip into a new throw-away plastic cover if one is available. If you do not have a cover, clean the pointed end (probe) with soap and warm water or rubbing alcohol. Rinse it with cool water.

  • With your mouth open, put the covered tip under your tongue.

  • Close your lips gently around the thermometer.

  • Keep the thermometer under your tongue until the digital thermometer beeps.

  • Remove the thermometer when numbers show up in the "window".
    Digital Thermometer


  • Read the numbers in the window. These numbers are your temperature.

  • Your caregiver may want you to keep a temperature record. Write down the time and your temperature each time you take it.

  • Remove or eject the throw-away cover if you used one.

  • Place the thermometer back in its holder.

How do I use a glass thermometer?

There should not be anything hot or cold in your mouth for 10 minutes before taking a temperature.

  • Take the thermometer out of its holder.

  • Hold the thermometer by the end opposite the colored (red, blue, or silver) tip.

  • Clean the thermometer with soap and warm water or rubbing alcohol. Rinse with cool water.
    Oral Glass Thermometer


  • Turn the thermometer in your hand until you see the red, blue, or silver line. The line should read less than 96° F (35.6° C). If the line reads more than 96° F (35.6° C), firmly shake the thermometer downward several times. Shake the thermometer over a couch or bed. This will keep it from breaking if it slips out of your hand.

  • Check the thermometer again to make sure it reads less than 96°F (35.6°C).

  • With your mouth open, put the end with the red, blue, or silver-colored tip under your tongue.

  • Close your lips gently around the thermometer. Do not bite the glass thermometer.

  • Keep the thermometer under your tongue for 3 minutes.

  • Remove the thermometer without touching the tip.

  • Gently wipe the thermometer with a tissue.

  • Hold the thermometer at eye level.

  • Slowly turn the thermometer until you see the red, blue, or silver-colored line. Each long mark on the thermometer is the same as 1 degree. Short marks are the same as 0.2 degree.

  • Your caregiver may want you to keep a temperature record. Write down the time and your temperature each time you take it.

  • Wash the thermometer with soap and warm water. Do not use hot water because it may break the thermometer.

CONTACT A CAREGIVER IF:

  • You have a fever.

  • You have a sore throat.

  • You have abdominal (belly) pain.

  • You have vomiting (throwing up) or diarrhea (di-uh-REE-uh). Diarrhea is loose BM's.

SEEK CARE IMMEDIATELY IF:

  • You have a fever.

  • You have a stiff neck.

  • You are having breathing problems.

  • You are confused or are not thinking clearly.

Copyright © 2012. Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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