How to Take Your Baby's Temperature: A Guide for New Parents

As a new parent, taking your baby's temperature can be one of your most anxiety-provoking tasks. Not only do infant temperatures change quickly and require accurate readings to make sure your little one is healthy, but there are so many different methods to choose from - digital thermometers, temporal artery scanners, pacifier thermometers-- it can all get overwhelming! Don't worry, though – in this blog post, we will cover everything you need to know about taking your baby's temperature safely and accurately so that you can rest assured knowing your baby is feeling okay.

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Why Babies Get Fevers

Have you ever wondered why babies get fevers? Fevers are a sign that the body is fighting off an infection, which is especially important for infants more susceptible to illness. A baby's immune system is still developing, so its body may work overtime to fight off a cold or ear infection, resulting in a fever. Despite the discomfort of a fever, it's important to remember that it's a positive sign that the body is working hard to overcome illness. So while it may be challenging to see your little one suffer through a fever, know that their body is doing its best to keep them healthy. 

Baby Temperatures

It can be concerning for parents when they notice their baby feels warmer than usual, but it's important to understand what a normal baby temperature looks like. The AAP recommends using a digital thermometer to take your baby's temperature and establishing a baseline for what is normal for them. As mentioned, a normal range is 97 to 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, with the average being around 98.6 degrees. Remember that activity and environmental factors can impact your baby's temperature, so it's important to keep an eye on any other symptoms or changes in behavior before assuming their temperature is abnormal.

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What Options are There for Baby Thermometers?

baby getting temperature checked

Thermometers can be broken down into three distinct varieties:

  • Digital thermometers: These record temperatures in under a minute. Some are designed to be placed under the tongue, while others can also be used sublingually or rectally. (After each use, be sure to give them a thorough cleaning!)
  • Ear thermometers: These thermometers, which are also known as tympanic thermometers, are used to take the temperature of the middle ear fluid.
  • Forehead thermometers: The forehead is where these thermometers, technically known as temporal artery thermometers, are swiped to take a reading of a major vein.

Which Baby Thermometer is Best?

Choosing a suitable thermometer for your baby can be daunting as a parent. One crucial factor to consider is your little one's age. For newborns up to three months, rectal thermometers are recommended for the most accurate temperature readings. But for babies aged three months to four years, digital thermometers can be used to take rectal or armpit temperatures and ear or forehead readings. And for kids four years and up, digital thermometers can be used orally (if they can hold it still) or with the armpit, ear, or forehead. Ultimately, the best thermometer for your baby depends on their age and comfort level, so choosing the right one for your little one's needs is essential.

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How Do You Take the Temperature of a Baby?

baby having temperature test taken

Depending on how you measure your child's temperature, you will need to adhere to a different set of instructions. Be sure to read the thermometer's instructions to ensure that you are using it properly.

Rectal Temperature

  • Rinse the thermometer in cold water after cleaning it with soap, warm water, or alcohol.
  • Put a dab of lubricant on the end, like petroleum jelly.
  • Make sure you're on a stable surface (a changing pad or your lap) before putting your child on their stomach; then, gently press your palm against their lower back to keep them in place. Another option is to turn your child over so that they are face up, pull their knees up to their chest, and put your hand on the back of their thighs.
  • With your free hand, activate the thermometer and insert it into the anus no further than an inch. Keep your hand cupped around your child's bottom and use your fingers to gently hold the thermometer in place.
  • When you hear the beep, put down the gadget.
  • After each use, give the thermometer a thorough cleaning.

Underarm Temperature

  • Cleanse the end of the thermometer with soap, lukewarm water, or alcohol, and then rinse and dry it with cool water.
  • Turn on the thermometer and place it under the armpit of your child. Always ensure that it is touching the skin and not clothing.
  • Hold your child's arm in place with gentle pressure until you hear a beep.

Ear Temperature

  • You should wash the thermometer's probe with soap and warm water or alcohol, and then rinse it in cold water and dry it.
  • Wrap a clean cloth around the thermometer's probe.
  • Put the thermometer gently in your child's ear canal by pulling his or her ear back slightly. Point the probe in the direction of your child's unaffected eye. For this reason, an ear thermometer is not recommended for use on infants and younger babies (since it can be tricky to get the angle right for an accurate reading).
  • Just flip the switch, listen for the beep, and then take the thermometer out.

Oral Temperature

  • Always wait 15 minutes after giving your child food or liquid before taking their temperature.
  • Cleanse the end of the thermometer with soap, lukewarm water, or alcohol, and then rinse and dry it with cool water.
  • Turn on the thermometer and position the probe under your child's tongue toward the back of the mouth. Hold it in place until the beep sounds.

When to Call a Doctor

It can be difficult to know when it's time to call the doctor for your baby. While a fever is common and often no cause for concern, there are certain signs to look out for. If your little one's temperature is above 104F and doesn't respond to medication, it's important to seek medical attention. Remember, trust your instincts as a parent.

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Understanding Your Baby’s Temperature

Taking your baby’s temperature may seem intimidating, but if you break it down into several easy steps, it’s totally doable. You have everything you need to make sure that your little one is doing alright and if their temperature is too high or low, you now know when it's time to seek medical advice. Caring for a baby can be challenging but thankfully this is one thing you can check off your list thanks to our helpful guide. As always, keep checking our blog regularly for more tips on caring for your precious bundle of joy like a pro!

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