How It Is Done
Before taking a body temperature,
review the instructions for how to use your specific thermometer. General methods of taking a
temperature are described below.
How to take an oral temperature
Oral is the most
common method of taking a temperature. To get an accurate temperature, the
person must be able to breathe through the nose. If this is impossible because
of a stuffy nose or lack of cooperation, use the rectum, ear, or armpit to take the
- Place the digital or disposable thermometer
under the tongue, just to one side of the center, and close the lips tightly
- Leave the thermometer in place for the required amount
of time. Time yourself with a clock or watch. Some digital thermometers give a
series of short beeps when the reading is done.
- Remove the
thermometer and read it.
- Clean a digital thermometer with cool,
soapy water and rinse it off before putting it away.
How to take a rectal temperature
This is the
location to measure body temperature most accurately. It is recommended for
babies , small children, and people who cannot hold a thermometer safely in
their mouths. It is also used when getting the most accurate measurement is
- Apply a lubricant jelly or petroleum jelly,
such as Vaseline, on the bulb of the thermometer so that you can insert it
- When measuring the temperature of babies or small children,
turn the child facedown on your lap or on a flat covered or padded surface,
such as a bed. Choose a quiet place so that the child won't be distracted or
move around too much.
- Spread the child's buttocks with one hand and
gently insert the bulb end of the rectal thermometer about
0.5 in. (1.25 cm) to
1 in. (2.5 cm) into the anal
canal with your other hand. Don't force it into the rectum. Hold the
thermometer in place with two fingers close to the anal opening (not near the
end of the thermometer). Pressing the child's buttocks together will help keep
the thermometer in place.
- Leave the thermometer in place for the
required amount of time. Some digital thermometers give a series of short beeps
when the reading is done. Time yourself with a watch or clock.
- Remove the thermometer and read it.
- Clean a digital thermometer with cool, soapy water and
rinse it off before putting it away.
- Do not use a thermometer to
take an oral temperature after it has been used to take a rectal
How to take an armpit (axillary) temperature