You will easily notice if your baby is warmer than usual. A touch on the forehead and on the neck is often enough to indicate a higher-than-normal body temperature. And if the body warmth is seen along with other symptoms that indicate an illness, then you might be worried that your baby has fever and you would want to know his exact body temperature. This is where a thermometer will come in handy. Read on to understand various types of thermometer and how to use them.
digital thermometer

What Are The Kinds Of Thermometer Available In The Market?

Thermometers can be broadly classified into two:

  1. Mercury thermometer, which is a narrow glass tube containing a small amount of mercury
  2. Digital thermometer, which is a small handheld device which has a small screen where the body temperature will be displayed

Now, mercury thermometers are the traditional way of measuring temperature. However, it is not advisable to use mercury thermometer for your baby. This is because:

  • There is a chance that the thermometer can break and the broken glass can injure the child
  • There is a risk of unintentional mercury poisoning

So, all pediatricians recommend the use of digital thermometers for babies.

What Are The Different Kinds Of Digital Thermometers Available In The Market?

The digital thermometers also come in various forms. There are mainly three kinds available in the market:

  • Digital multiuse thermometer: It measures temperature when the sensor at the end of the thermometer touches some part of the baby’s body. It can be used to take temperature from the rectum, mouth or armpit
  • Temporal artery thermometer: It measures the temperature when placed near the temporal artery (across forehead) of the baby.
  • Tympanic thermometer: It measures the temperature by sensing the infrared heat waves in the ear
  • Each of these thermometers has pros and cons and are suitable for kids of certain ages. Digital multiuse thermometer has the broadest applications, as it can be used to measure temperature rectally when the baby is less than 3 years old, orally when the child is above 3 years and axillary throughout

How To Check Baby’s Temperature Rectally?
  • Clean the sensor end of the thermometer using a cleaning alcohol and wash it with water
  • Once dried, coat the tip with some petroleum jelly
  • Place the baby in either of the two ways:
    • On her back, with her legs folded to the chest. She is used to being in this position for diaper changes and she can see you in this position
    • On your lap, with her tummy down and back up
  • Turn on the thermometer and insert the sensor end 2 cm into the rectum (or till the sensor tip disappears)
  • Hold the baby and the thermometer firmly to ensure that the baby doesn’t wiggle and the thermometer does not fall down
  • Remove the thermometer when it beeps and note down the temperature
  • Clean the thermometer again with alcohol, soap and water and put it away

Note: Some babies do not like rectal thermometers. If your baby is fussing, screen the temperature first using a digital thermometer under her armpit and resort to rectum only if you suspect a fever. Also, remember that many babies pass motion immediately after the rectal temperature is taken. So, be prepared.

How To Check Baby’s Temperature Orally?
  • Clean the thermometer, especially the sensor tip
  • Place it under the child tongue, towards the back
  • Remove the temperature when the thermometer beeps and note the temperature
  • Clean the thermometer and put it away for storage

Note: This method can be used only once your baby is 4 or 5 years old.

How To Check Baby’s Temperature From Armpit?
  • Clean your baby’s underarm and keep it dry
  • Put the baby in a comfortable position and slip the sensor tip of the thermometer into the armpit
  • Make sure your baby keeps his arms tightly on his side so that the sensor is in touch with skin on all sides
  • Record the temperature when the thermometer beeps

Note: This is a very easy and convenient way to measure temperature. However, this method is less reliable than the rest, so should only be used for screening and not for determining exact temperature.
forehead thermometer

How To Check Baby’s Temperature From Temporal Artery?
  • Read manufacturer’s instructions clearly before using the thermometer
  • Keep the thermometer on the skin above baby’s temporal artery. This is midway between eyebrows and hairline
  • Switch on the thermometer. Keep the button pressed
  • Swipe the thermometer across the forehead, following the temporal artery. Make sure you are swiping in a straight line
  • Raise the thermometer from the forehead and release the button
  • Read the temperature

Note: This is a very convenient way to measure temperature, once you get a hang of how to use it.

How To Measure Baby’s Temperature From The Ear?
  • Insert a new tip on the thermometer
  • Hold the child’s head steady
  • Pull the ear back, insert the thermometer
  • Read the thermometer when it beeps. Discard the tip

Note: This can be tricky to use so please ask your doctor to demonstrate it to you for the first time. Also remember that the device will give the correct temperature only if it is measured correctly, and if there is not too much ear wax.

When To Call Your Doctor

Now you know how to take your baby’s temperature. Immediately call your doctor when:

  • Your baby is between 0-3 months and the thermometer shows a fever of 100.4 F and more
  • Your baby is less than 6 months and the thermometer shows a fever of 102.2 F and more

Just don’t panic if your baby has fever because it is not a medical emergency. One of the terrifying thing for a mother is to see her baby burning with fever but stay calm as your baby can sense your tension and become cranky. You can check with your pediatrician and give the required dosage of medicine to provide relief to your baby. Remember, a fever is just an indication that your baby’s body is combating an infection and there is nothing to worry as long as fever is not too high. Relax, your baby will be fine soon!