New parents these days are likely to have a thermometer that takes a temperature reading in seconds via the ear (Tympanic thermometer). However, if you are not one of the lucky ones and have no idea where to start with the type of thermometer you have, read on!
There is more than one way to take a temperature but the most commonly used is an axillary temperature reading. This is done by placing the thermometer under baby’s armpit. This reading is sufficiently accurate in most instances.
The rectal reading however is more accurate than an axillary reading but this method has become less popular in recent times for various reasons.
Your baby’s body temperature will differ according to where the temperature reading is taken. Normal body temperatures have been provided so that a base line can be established and you as a parent can know what is considered -normal .
Normal Body Temperature
Rectal: 37.6 °C
Oral: 37 °C
Axillary: 36.4 °C
Using a temperature strip
A temperature strip is a device that looks like a large plastic plaster. The strip has indicators on it which change colour depending on the temperature of the baby’s forehead. You need to sit baby on your lap and position the strip in the middle of his forehead. Hold it in place with a finger at either end of the strip for at least one minute. The colour reflected will indicate the child’s body temperature.
Taking an axillary temperature
Did you know that if your baby has had a prolonged bout of crying it can give a false high when taking a temperature? Because of this, you will need to calm baby down first and then slip the thermometer into his armpit and hold his arm flat against his side. You will need to keep the thermometer in place for three minutes however some electronic axillary thermometers -beep when the temperature has been taken.
When to call the doctor
A raised temperature does not always indicate that your baby is sick however if the raised temperature is combined with other symptoms it should be monitored by you closely.
The rule of thumb is that if your baby is running a temperature above 38 °C and has any of the following conditions/problems, you should immediately take them to the doctor.
- Baby is less than three months old
- Baby is unusually drowsy or lethargic
- Baby is not feeding/eating
- Baby is vomiting or has diarrhoea
- Baby is crying or moaning for no apparent reason
You are the best judge of your baby’s condition and if he seems unwell to you call the doctor.
When you do not need to call the doctor
Some doctors do not recommend medication to lower a temperature until it reaches 38 °C however if baby is in pain you may want to give him paracetamol. Never give your baby aspirin! (Medicines You Should Never, Ever Give Your Baby!)
There are other ways to help baby feel comfortable until his fever breaks.
- Keep your baby cool by dressing him in lightweight natural fibres. If he is not in pain, sponge him down with tepid water.
- Give baby plenty of fluids. Little and often is better than fewer longer drinks.