How to Take a Temperature

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Take a Temperature
Take a Temperature

How to Take a Temperature. Taking your child's temperature, or your own, requires some practice. A thermometer is one of the best at-home diagnostic tools available. Use it anytime you wonder if someone in your family is "coming down with something."

Things You'll Need

  • Digital Thermometers
  • Isopropyl Alcohols
  • Facial Tissues
  • Oral Thermometers

For Adults

Clean your glass thermometer with isopropyl alcohol before using it, then dip the tip into some cool water, or wipe with a tissue, to remove the taste of the alcohol.

Shake down your glass thermometer until the mercury line is below 96.6 degrees F.

Slide the tip of the thermometer under one side of the tongue, well into the back of the mouth.

Close your mouth around the thermometer using your lips - don't clench the glass thermometer with your teeth. Breathe through your nose, with your mouth closed.

Leave the thermometer under your tongue for 3 full minutes.

Remove the thermometer and hold it under a bright light, so you can see how high the mercury has risen. An arrow will point to the normal temperature, which is 98.6 degrees F.

For Children

Place the end of the thermometer under your child's dry armpit to take what's known as an axillary temperature. The armpit should be dry.

Hold the thermometer in place by gently pressing your child's elbow against the side of his chest.

Remove the thermometer after 4 minutes. To ensure accuracy, check the temperature of the opposite armpit.

Read under a bright light.

Consider temperature strips and temperature-sensitive pacifiers. However, these have been found to be inadequate and inaccurate, so use them with caution, only when no other method is available.

Tips & Warnings

  • For an oral temperature to be accurate, you must not have had anything hot or cold to drink for at least 10 minutes prior to inserting the thermometer.
  • There are also disposable chemical-dot oral strips to take the temperatures of youngsters. They are somewhat accurate but must be kept beside the tongue for a full 60 seconds.
  • In most hospitals, pediatric nurses use electronic ear thermometers.
  • Use a thermometer specifically designed for taking an oral temperature. Do not use the same thermometer for oral and rectal temperatures. A rectal thermometer has an end that's more stout and stumpy.
  • Normal oral reading is 98.6 degrees F and normal axillary temperature is 97.6 degrees F.
  • Never heat a thermometer, either under hot water or by placing it on a hot surface.

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