Today's digital thermometers make taking a baby's temperature simple, with quick results. For best results in babies and toddlers up to 3 years of age, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends taking the temperature rectally, by placing a thermometer in the baby's anus. This method is accurate and gives a quick reading of the baby's internal temperature. Axillary (underarm) temperature measurements may be used for babies ages 3 months and older. Other types of thermometers, such as tympanic (ear) type thermometers, may not be accurate for newborns and require careful positioning to get a precise reading. Skin strips that are pressed on the skin to measure temperature are not recommended for babies. Touching a baby's skin can let you know if he or she is warm or cool, but you cannot measure body temperature simply by touch.
A new type of thermometer, called a temporal artery thermometry, is as accurate as a rectal thermometer with less discomfort and less disturbing to a newborn.
There are different instructions depending upon which type of thermometer you are using to take your baby's temperature. Be sure to follow the instructions for each carefully.
Do not use glass thermometers containing mercury. According to the EPA, mercury is a toxic substance that poses a threat to the health of humans, as well as to the environment. Because of the risk of breaking, glass thermometers containing mercury should be removed from use and disposed of properly in accordance with local, state, and federal laws. Contact your local health department, waste disposal authority, or fire department for information on how to properly dispose of mercury thermometers.
Oral and rectal glass thermometers have different shapes and one should not be substituted for the other. Do not use oral thermometers rectally as these can cause injury. Rectal thermometers have a security bulb designed specifically for safely taking rectal temperatures.
If a baby's temperature is 100.4° F or higher, make sure he or she is not dressed too warmly or over bundled with blankets. Crying may also raise a baby's temperature. Retake the baby's temperature again in about 30 minutes. If the temperature is still high, call your baby's physician immediately.
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