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How To Take A Temperature
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
A temperature shows if you have a fever. Fever may be a sign of illness, infection, or other conditions. You can take a temperature orally, rectally, under the arm, or in the ear.
Ways to take a temperature:
- Oral: Do not eat or drink anything hot or cold for at least 10 minutes before you take an oral temperature. The normal oral temperature for an adult is about 98.6°F (37°C). The normal oral temperature for a child is between 97.6° and 99.3°F (36.4° and 37.4°C). The normal oral temperature for older persons is 96.8°F (36°C).
- Rectal: Rectal temperatures run higher than those taken in the mouth, ear, or armpit. The normal rectal temperature of a child is between 97° and 100°F (36° to 37.7°C). Do not take a rectal temperature if your child has had surgery on his rectum, has a rectal disorder, or if he bleeds easily.
- Underarm: A normal underarm temperature is between 96.6°F (35.9°C) and 98°F (36.7°C). An underarm temperature runs lower than other measures because the thermometer is not inside your body.
- Ear: The normal ear temperature for adults is 99.5°F (37.5°C). Ask what your child's normal ear temperature should be.
How to use a digital thermometer:
Carefully read the instructions before you use your digital thermometer. Clean the thermometer with soap and warm water or rubbing alcohol. Rinse it with cool water. Do this before and after you use the thermometer.
- To take an oral temperature: Put the tip under your tongue. Close your lips gently around the thermometer. Keep the thermometer under your tongue until it beeps.
- To take a rectal temperature: Lubricate the tip of the thermometer with a small amount of petroleum jelly. Gently insert the tip of the thermometer about ½ inch (1.25 cm) into the rectum. Never force the thermometer into the rectum. Hold it there until it beeps.
- To take an underarm temperature: Put the tip in your armpit. Squeeze your arm against your body to hold the thermometer in place. Keep the thermometer in your armpit until it beeps.
How to use a glass thermometer:
Do not use a glass thermometer for a child younger than 5. He may bite the thermometer, breaking it in his mouth. Clean the thermometer with soap and warm water or rubbing alcohol. Rinse it with cool water. Do this before and after you use the thermometer.
- Before you take a temperature: Hold the thermometer by the end opposite the colored tip. Turn the thermometer 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), 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 after you shake it to make sure it reads less than 96°F (35.6°C).
- To take an oral temperature: Put the end with the colored tip under your tongue. Close your lips gently around the thermometer. Do not bite it. Keep the thermometer under your tongue for 3 minutes.
- To take a rectal temperature: Lubricate the tip of the thermometer with a small amount of petroleum jelly. Gently insert the tip of the thermometer about ½ inch (1.25 cm) into the rectum. Never force the thermometer into the rectum. Keep the thermometer in the rectum for 3 minutes.
- To take an underarm temperature: Put the end with the colored tip in your armpit. Squeeze your arm against your body to hold the thermometer in place. Keep the thermometer in your armpit for 3 minutes.
- Read a glass thermometer: Remove the thermometer. Slowly turn the thermometer until you see the colored line. Each long mark on the thermometer is 1 degree. Short marks are 0.2 degrees.
How to use an ear thermometer:
Carefully read the instructions before you use your ear thermometer. Do not use an ear thermometer if you have an earache, ear infection, or had recent ear surgery. Ear thermometers may give you a low reading if there is extra wax in your ears.
- Gently pull your ear up and back.
- Put the thermometer tip into your ear. Do not use force or push hard. The thermometer tip should not touch the ear drum.
- Press the button to turn on the thermometer. Remove the thermometer from your ear when it beeps.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
Contact your primary healthcare provider if:
- You have a fever.
- You have a sore throat.
- You have abdominal pain.
- You have vomiting or diarrhea.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Seek care immediately or call 911 if:
- You have a stiff neck.
- You have shortness of breath.
- You are confused or cannot think clearly.
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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.