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Measuring a Baby's Temperature

Where should a baby's temperature be taken?

Most physicians recommend taking a baby's temperature rectally, by placing a thermometer in the baby's anus. This method is accurate and gives a quick reading of the baby's internal temperature. Axillary (underarm) temperature measurements must be held in place for 10 minutes. The tympanic (ear) type thermometers may not be accurate for newborns and require careful positioning to get an accurate reading. Skin strips that are pressed on the skin to measure temperature are not recommended for babies. Touching a baby's skin can let you know if he/she is warm or cool but you cannot measure body temperature simply by touch.

Preparing the thermometer:

There are different instructions depending upon which type of thermometer you are using to take your baby's temperature. Be sure to follow the instructions for each carefully.

About glass thermometers containing mercury:

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), mercury is a toxic substance that poses a threat to the health of humans, as well as to the environment. Because of the risk of breaking, glass thermometers containing mercury should be removed from use and disposed of properly in accordance with local, state, and federal laws. Contact your local health department, waste disposal authority, or fire department for information on how to properly dispose of mercury thermometers.

Taking the baby's rectal temperature:

Oral and rectal glass thermometers have different shapes and one should not be substituted for the other. Do not use oral thermometers rectally as these can cause injury. Rectal thermometers have a security bulb designed specifically for safely taking rectal temperatures.

If a baby's temperature is 100.4° F or higher, make sure he/she is not dressed too warmly or over bundled with blankets. Crying may also raise a baby's temperature. Retake the baby's temperature again in about 30 minutes. If the temperature is still high, call your baby's physician immediately.

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