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How to Properly Check Your Child’s Temperature

checking child temperature

How to Properly Check Your Child's Temperature?

Remember the time you try to wake your child up for breakfast and find your child hot, sweaty, and feeling really weak. At this point, we sort of panic inside and don't know what to do that moment but only reach for a thermometer to see if your child really has a fever or not. But now that you've checked your child's temperature, what should you do next? Call the doctor? Do home treatment? Or run to the hospital's emergency room?

What causes your child to have a fever?

Looking after a sick toddler can be difficult especially when they have a fever. There are several main causes of fevers in kids and toddlers. These three are:

1. Infections and Illnesses

This is the most common cause of a fever. Once the body is attacked by bacteria or virus, the body's immune system detects this outsider and creates a defense. The main defense mechanism is by heating up the body to fight the bacteria and virus away causing your child to have a fever. Other illnesses can also cause a fever. Whether it is an illness or an infection, a fever is the result of the body's natural defense mechanism and is, therefore, a very common symptom of certain illnesses or diseases.

2. Immunizations

There are some vaccines out there that may cause a low-grade fever for your kids. Most vaccines that can actually cause fever are immunizations for a mix of illnesses like the DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, acellular Pertussis), DPT (Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus), and MMR (Measles, mumps, and rubella). It is common to see swelling on the shot site within the first 24 or 48 hours. But there are other symptoms as well like fussiness, lack of appetite, and sometimes a mild rash, especially for the MMR shot.

checking child temperature

3. Overdressing

This is very common for infants. As new parents, we often think that baby's small body needs layer after layer of nice clothes to keep them warm. This is a big no-no. Your child needs to be warm, yes, but not under layers of clothes. In fact, overdressing can be counter-productive since it becomes a potentially dangerous thing to happen to your baby. This is very common for newborns who are over bundled. However, whether your child is over bundled or not, going to the doctor is a must to make sure that your child does not have an infection whatsoever.

4. Others would be teething toddlers

Teething can also cause fever and in order to hep deal with this, reduce the swelling by applying teething gel or giving your child a teething toy to keep your child active and not succumb to a fever. Make sure to always keep watch of your child's temperature.

Is Fever, in itself, dangerous to your child?

No. Fever is not dangerous to your child at all. In fact, a fever is simply a symptom of an underlying illness that needs to be resolved. It is your body's own defense mechanism that allows you to heal faster and fight off the disease. However, once the illness or infection has gotten out of hand, it will make your child's body keep it at bay by causing your body to heat up more.

When does fever become dangerous to your child?

When the body has an infection or a really bad illness, the body needs to find a way to keep the body at bay. So if your child has an infection going on for so long, then this will lead to your little one's body to heat up even more. The higher the fever, the more potentially dangerous it will be for your child. And this is really crucial to know.

Types of Thermometers and How to Check Temperature Readings for Children

There are so many types of thermometers out there. And it is mostly on your preference on which one you like to use because there are so many places all over the body where the temperature can be taken.

  • Axillary or under the arm (recommended for kids 4 and up)
  • Oral or in the mouth (recommended for kids aged 3 and up)
  • Rectal or up the bottom (accurate for newborns to toddlers aged 3)
  • Tymponic or in the ear

Here are the different types of thermometers and what they are best used for.

Digital Thermometer

Digital thermometers are especially beneficial since it can be used under the arm, in the mouth, or in the anus. It is also the most accurate and still fast in getting a child's temperature—or even adults, either way, it works great.

How to check temperature with digital thermometer, you ask? Well, make sure that the metallic end, which is the sensitive side is what you need to put in contact with your child's skin. Leave the thermometer on until it beeps or makes a signal. You can check your child's temperature with the sensitive end touching the body directly. Make sure that you don't use a rectal thermometer as an oral thermometer. Always label since you don't want anybody to use in their mouth something that came straight from your baby's bum.

Best Non-Contact Thermometer Buying Guide

Non-Contact Thermometer

As the name says, a non-contact thermometer is the only thermometer that does not have physical contact with the body. This measures the infrared heat given off by the body. Although this may seem extremely quick and easy, the accuracy and reliability of temperature guns are in question. This is not recommended to be used on children under three months of age.

How to measure temperature with a temperature gun? It is very simple. Just point the temperature gun on your child's forehead and it will read the temperature given off by the body. Expect the reading to be +/-3 degrees accurate because you are measuring the temperature from a distance. And since the temperature of a newborn varies from one part of the body to the other, do not completely rely on this to be used on your infant. You can buy non-contact thermometers that are more accurate in reading as long as you choose well.

Electronic Ear Thermometer

Another simple thermometer that is less worrisome to use on your kids is the ear thermometer. This is more accurate than the non-contact thermometer. However, they are pretty expensive as well since it is something we barely use on a daily basis.

How to use an ear thermometer properly? First of all, clean your little one's ears. Too much earwax can mess up your readings. Put the tip of the ear thermometer in your child's ear. Make sure that goes in—don't worry, it won't poke your little one.

Plastic fever strips

This is simply a small plastic strip that sticks on your child's forehead. This only reads in whole numbers and cannot completely be accurate; but it is convenient to use on your child. And since it comes in different shapes and sizes, that will make your child enjoy having his/her temperature taken.

How to read a child's temperature properly using a fever strip? Put the strip on your child's forehead. Leave it for a minute or less (depending on the instructions of your plastic fever strips). You will see different color changes in the plastic strip indicating the temperature of your child. The strip is heat sensitive and as the temperature goes higher, the strip 'lights up' accordingly.

checking child temperature

Pacifier thermometer

As the name suggests, it looks like a pacifier with a digital display. This is pretty accurate since it measures the temperature of your child inside his/her mouth. This is also particularly helpful in babies since they love to suck on pacifiers and it makes it easier for us to get their temperature. Unfortunately, older kids don't like their temperature taken using the pacifier temperature so it is more likely useful only when you have a baby under two and it is pretty much discarded from there.

How to get an infant's temperature using a pacifier temperature? Let your infant stay still by holding them or putting your child in her comfort seat like a baby rocker chair or inside a rocking bassinet. Let your little one suck on the pacifier until it beeps to show that it has already read your baby's temperature. You only need to have your child stay still for about a minute and your baby is good to go.

Glass Thermometers

This has been the most known way of getting your child's temperature until the 21st century. This is just as accurate as a digital thermometer. A glass thermometer is practically a tube with mercury inside. As you put it under your child's tongue, armpit, or in the anus, the mercury or the red alcohol inside rises. This was so popular back in the day that whenever you watch cartoons, you see a glass temperature exploding because of the character's high temperature. It may be accurate but it is fragile and Mercury is a very dangerous chemical.

How to measure toddler's temperature using a glass thermometer? Just put the glass thermometer in the armpit or under the tongue. Leave it for a minute and see if the red liquid or mercury has stopped rising. You will see that the liquid stops at a corresponding measurement and that is what your child's temperature is. You have to handle this with care since it is breakable.

How to Properly Check Your Child's Temperature Rectally?

When taking your child's temperature, always make sure that you read the instructions on how to use that specific thermometer. You also have to let your child stay still in order to get an accurate reading especially in using a digital thermometer or a glass thermometer. Properly taking your infant's temperature is more accurate when taking it rectally especially when they are under 3 years old. When you cannot take temperature orally because your child has nasal congestion or constant coughing and sneezing, it is much more accurate to take it rectally.

In using a rectal thermometer, you need to position your child well first. Make sure that the tip of the thermometer is cleaned with alcohol or soap and water. Once it is clean, put a lubricant on like oil or petroleum jelly.

checking child temperature properly

Now the hard part... putting the thermometer. The first position would be putting your child tummy down—this applies well if your child is well-behaved and less squirmy. This is also good for infants. Make sure that your child is comfortable as well. Insert the thermometer up the anus—only the metal tip part and don't go too far up. Hold the thermometer for a minute or until it beeps.​

The second position works well for babies who are fussier. Let your child lay down either on your lap or on their bed, lift both legs up as your would in changing diapers. Rest your hand on both legs and insert the thermometer. Hold it in place while letting your hand cup the bottom of your little one and wait for the beep.​

Thermometer readings: what's normal and what's not?

Knowing what the normal baby temperature is will give you an idea if your child has a mild fever, a high fever, or a dangerously high fever. Here is a baby temperature chart that will give you a better idea what to do in dealing with your child's temperature.

Temperature Range

Location

Indication

What to do now?

<99.5°F (37.5°C)

Oral

Normal

Your child has no fever and is feeling absolutely well

<100.4°F (38°C)

Rectal

<99°F (37.2°C)

Axillary

99.5-101.3°F (37.5-38.5°C)

Oral

Mild Fever

Dress your child in comfortable clothes, apply cold compress on the forehead. You can simply cool your child down by doing a cool body rubdown with a cotton towel.

100.4-102.2°F (38-39°C)

Rectal

99-101.3°F (37.2-38.5°C)

Axillary

>101.3°F (>38.5°C)

Oral

High Fever

It's better to have your child be checked by a doctor.

>102.2°F (>39°C)

Rectal

>101.3°F (>38.5°C)

Axillary

When should I worry about a fever?

Even a mild fever can be potentially dangerous if it is accompanied by symptoms like nausea, vomiting, short sharp breathing, and severe loss of appetite—even in drinking or breastfeeding. You should immediately call for emergency services if your child has a seizure, convulsion or gets really dehydrated.

You should observe your child. If your child has a fever but still acts normally—of course with slight symptoms like loss of appetite but still eats frequent small meal portions—your child is alright. Observe you child's activity and behavior. Any sudden change in normal behavior is a cause for concern. A change in behavior even with a mild ever is enough reason to bring your child to the doctors.

Don't immediately rely on giving your child any form of medication. You should start off first with home treatment to lower your child's temperature.​

In conclusion, properly checking your child's temperature is not just relying on your abnormal normal child's temperature reading. Before doctors relied on the temperature reading alone but now, doctors want to observe your child's activity and behavior. You know your child well and you know when your little one is feeling well or not. A high temperature is a symptom of something else and can be a cause of worry, so observe your child and take the proper method of checking your little one's temperature to get the most accurate result.

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