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Cold and Flu FAQ: How to Soothe Your Child

What’s the best way to take my child’s temperature?

A digital thermometer is easy to use and safer than a glass mercury thermometer, which can sometimes break. The best specific type of digital thermometer depends on age.

  • For babies and toddlers: Use a digital rectal thermometer because they’re the most accurate and easiest to use with children this age.
  • For ages 2 to 5: Use a digital ear or under-arm thermometer. These are not as accurate as rectal thermometers, but can give you a general idea about your child’s temperature.
  • For ages 5 and older (who won’t bite down): Use a digital mouth thermometer. (The label may say oral thermometer.)

Once you have the right thermometer:

  • Before using: Wash it in lukewarm soapy water, then rinse and dry with a clean paper towel.
  • Insert according to package directions, then wait until the thermometer beeps to tell you it’s ready to read.
  • Write downyour child’s temperature and the medicine you give. List the time and the dose if you use medicine to reduce fever. Share this information with your pediatrician if you need to call.
  • After using: Wash and rinse the thermometer or wipe it with rubbing alcohol. Store it in a container in a cool, dry place.
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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on October 29, 2012

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