The Best Ways to Take a Person’s Temperature
By Leanne Shelton
A week before Christmas, my four-year-old son was sick. He was coughing and congested for a few days and then a fever developed. It was on a Sunday, so I took him to urgent care to get checked for an ear infection. Before we left, I took his temperature under his arm and it was 101.4.
When we got to urgent care, I was explaining his symptoms to the nurse, and we got to the temperature. I explained that I took his temperature under the arm and asked if we still add a point when it is taken that way. She looked at me confused and said she never heard that. She was really young. I’m still KIND OF young (in my 30s) and luckily there have only been a few times that I feel “old.” This was definitely one of them.
So I explained to her that when I grew up, when we had our temperature taken under the arm, we always added a point. I thought I read that that is no longer recommended, which is why I asked her. Then I asked her what is the best way/the way they recommend to take a temperature.
She said that rectally is the most accurate. She said that the ear is the second best way. That is also the way they take the temperatures of their patients. And when she took my son’s temperature, it was 102.9! Quite a big difference from my under-the-arm temperature! I guess I will be investing in an ear thermometer.
Taking a person’s temperature orally is also pretty accurate. However, the patient should be able to keep the thermometer under the tongue for 3-5 minutes and should not have had anything hot or cold to drink 20 minutes prior to having the temperature taken.
As it turns out, I’m really glad I had that conversation with the nurse because my kids get high fevers usually once a year. Now I know the best ways to take their temperatures. And as I think back, I’m wondering just how high their fevers have actually gotten because my go-to was always under the arm and add a point.
For a quick reference on the different thermometers and ways to take a temperature, check out this guide on KidsHealth from Nemours.
Leave a comment and let us know if you were as surprised by this information as I was and what ways you use to take temperatures.
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