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Body Temperature

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 temperature.

  1. Place the digital or disposable thermometer under the tongue, just to one side of the center, and close the lips tightly around it.
  2. 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.
  3. Remove the thermometer and read it.
  4. 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 camera.gif, small children, and people who cannot hold a thermometer safely in their mouths. It is also used when getting the most accurate measurement is essential.

  1. Apply a lubricant jelly or petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, on the bulb of the thermometer so that you can insert it easily.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Remove the thermometer and read it.
  6. Clean a digital thermometer with cool, soapy water and rinse it off before putting it away.
  7. Do not use a thermometer to take an oral temperature after it has been used to take a rectal temperature.

How to take an armpit (axillary) temperature

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 07, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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