How to Check a Temperature Under the Arm

Parents frequently use the axillary site to take the temperatures of babies and young children.
Parents frequently use the axillary site to take the temperatures of babies and young children. (Image: Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Checking a person's temperature under the arm, known as the axillary site, is often easier than taking a rectal temperature in children and others who may not be able to assist you in properly taking an oral temperature reading. However, axillary readings are less reliable than those obtained orally or rectally. According to "Mosby’s Text Book for Nursing Assistants," Sheila A. Sorrentino states this site should only be used when using other sites is not possible. The normal body temperature taken from under the arm ranges from 96.6 to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. A higher temperature indicates a fever.

Wipe the underarm with a clean and dry towel.

Raise the arm, and place the tip of the thermometer in the center of the under arm where the arm meets the body.

Place the person’s arm down and across their chest to hold the thermometer in place. If necessary, bring the person’s arm down and hold the thermometer in place by hand for her.

Wait five to 10 minutes if you are using a glass thermometer, as indicated by the thermometer’s instructions. If you do not have instructions, wait for at least eight minutes. If using a digital thermometer, wait until you hear the beep.

Remove the thermometer and read the temperature.

Tips & Warnings

  • Instant-read temple thermometers are another alternative to consider, as they are faster and more accurate than other methods, including digital ear thermometers.
  • Use of a glass thermometer is no longer recommended, due to the risk of broken glass and mercury poisoning.

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  • "Mosby’s Text Book for Nursing Assistants”; Sheila A.Torrentino; 2008
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