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How to Use a Thermometer to Check a Fever

Using a Thermometer to Check a Fever


Updated April 10, 2014

If you think you or your child may have a fever, you need to check the temperature. If you do need to call the doctor, he will need to know how high your fever is. So, be sure you know how to take a proper temperature. After all, there are several different types of thermometers and it is easier to get it wrong than you may think.

First, we will review the different types of thermometers.

  • Oral - digital or manual
  • Rectal - digital or manual
  • Axillary - digital or manual
  • Tympanic - digital, takes temperature in the ear
  • Temporal - digital, takes temperature on forehead

Next, you must take the temperature correctly.

If you are using a manual or mercury thermometer, you must shake it down so that the mercury level is at least below 96 degrees F.

If you are using a digital thermometer, simply press the button to turn it on.

  • Oral - Place under the tongue; Wait until the digital thermometer beeps or approximately 5 minutes for a manual thermometer; Remember not to take an oral temperature right after eating or drinking something because it will alter the results.

  • Axillary - Place under the arm with the tip in the deepest crease; Wait until the digital thermometer beeps or approximately 5 minutes for a manual thermometer.

  • Rectal - Use lubrication, such as petroleum jelly and place tip in anal opening; Wait until the digital thermometer beeps or approximately 5 minutes for a manual thermometer; This method should be used for infants or those whose temperature cannot be taken any other way.

  • Tympanic - Pull top of earlobe up and back, place tip (covered with probe cover) in ear canal opening, press button until it beeps; Be sure you are pointing the probe into the ear canal opening and not at the wall of the ear, this can result in incorrect results.

  • Temporal - Press button down and sweep probe across forehead; This is fairly new technology, but seems to be relatively accurate and very quick and easy to use.

Do you need a thermometer? Can't decide which kind to get? Check your options.

  • Digital oral, axillary or rectal.
    Digital thermometers are a very good option. They are very inexpensive and much quicker and easier to use than manual mercury thermometers.

  • Compare Prices

  • Tympanic ear thermometer.
    These are very popular, especially among parents of small children. They are faster than regular digital thermometers and are easy to use. You should be careful to use it correctly and know that the results may not be accurate if the child has an ear infection.

  • Compare Prices

  • Temporal scan thermometer.
    The newest and most expensive thermometer on the market. These are the quickest (they only take 1-2 seconds) and probably the easiest to use. In my experience, they have been very accurate, but some people find they read too low at times.

  • Compare Prices

Now that you know how to take an accurate temperature, you will be ready next time you or your child has a fever.

Check Your Symptoms - What to do for a Fever

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