How to Read an Oral Thermometer

Oral or mouth thermometer
Oral or mouth thermometer (Image:,

Taking temperatures using an oral (mouth) thermometer is not difficult, especially if you using a digital thermometer. Make sure the tip of the thermometer is wiped clean with an alcohol wipe to sterilize it. Depending on what type of digital thermometer you use, there should be a little button on the top that you touch to clear any numbers that are visible on the screen of the thermometer.

Things You'll Need

  • Thermometer, digital or regular
  • Alcohol wipes

Taking the temperature of someone who feels sick is important. An elevated body temperature can indicate an infection someplace in the body. A rising temperature can be a serious indication of an infection brewing in the body

Make sure that the person has not consumed a hot or cold drink of any type or has eaten hot food in the past half hour. This will cause the temperature reading to not be accurate.

Place the tip of either digital or oral thermometer beneath the tongue on either side, the tip pointing to the rear facing the tonsil area. It is important to place the tip in the correct place to get an accurate reading. Once the thermometer is correctly placed under the tongue wait a few seconds for the digital reading, and three minutes for the clinical thermometer reading.

Oral clinical themometer
Oral clinical themometer

Make sure that the thermometer is held in place by the patient's lips, tongue or fingers. Have him keep his mouth shut and not to talk. If you are taking a young child's temperature ask him to hold the thermometer in place with one of his fingers, making sure that he does not use his teeth.

Wait a few seconds until you hear a beep from the thermometer. Read the numbers in the thermometer's little window. A reading of anything over 99.5 degrees F is fever.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you are unsure of how to use a digital oral thermometer, read the instructions that comes with it or ask your family doctor. Keep a thermometer in the house in case of need. Children especially are prone to getting colds or having a fever. Using an old-fashioned regular clinical or mercury thermometer is used in the same way, but takes longer for the temperature to rise. Leave it in at least three minutes before reading. Read a regular thermometer by watching for the line of the mercury that rises to stop (about three minutes under the tongue). Read the number that it stops at. Anything above 99.5 degrees F is fever.
  • Make sure you call a doctor or 911 if the patient has a very high temperature. A temperature of 101 degree and rising might need medical attention. Any temperature of over 103 is serious.

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