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How To Accurately Take Your Kid's Temperature

Many parents take their children’s temperatures several times a year. Not only can the temperature fluctuate depending on how you use a thermometer, but there are several different ways that parents can read their children’s temps, both safely and accurately. And since we always pull that thermometer out when we fear our child is getting sick, knowing how to take your child's temperature, accurately, is important.

What is considered a fever?

The average temperature for a child is about 97.5 degrees Fahrenheit, although it can vary depending on your child’s level of activity or during certain periods of the day. A fever is often considered to be anything above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Some parent's first inclination that their child may have a fever is that they're acting differently or using their hands, they can feel the heat on the stomach, back, or stomach.

Which are the best thermometers?

According to Kids Health, there are three different ways parents can check their child’s temperature: rectal,  oral, or axillary (under the armpit). There are also two types of thermometers that most health professionals recommend: temporal artery thermometers (which is like the ones that you scan across your child's forehead) and electronic ear (tympanic) thermometers. The first measures heat waves on the side of the forehead while the other measures heat waves from the eardrum.

child sick fever
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Which thermometers are not recommended?

It’s been noted that there are three different types of thermometers that are not recommended by pediatricians because they are less accurate. They include plastic strip thermometers, pacifier thermometers, and smartphone temperature apps. Glass mercury thermometers are also not recommended, simply because they can expose small children to mercury, which is an environmental toxin.

How To Take Your Kid's Temperature

As far as how a parent should take their child’s temp, there are a few easy steps moms and dads can follow. First, parents are advised to wait at least 20 to 30 minutes after a child finishes eating or drinking before taking their temperature since it can impact the reading. Parents also want to make sure that there is no gum or candy inside their child’s mouth. Next, place the tip of the thermometer under the tongue. Instruct your child to close his or her lips around it. If you want to take an axillary temperature, fold your child’s arm across his or her chest, and place the thermometer under an armpit. If you're using a temporal artery thermometer, just gently sweep the thermometer across your child's forehead.

thermometer
Credit: iStock / Wavebreakmedia

When to call the doctor?

If your child has a temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 24 hours, it may be a cause for concern. The Mayo Clinic says it's a good rule to check in with your doctor in these situations:

"Your child is younger than age 3 months and has a rectal temperature of 100.4 F (38 C) or higher." Also if "your child is age 3 to 6 months and has a temperature up to 102 F (38.9 C) and seems unusually irritable, lethargic or uncomfortable, or has a temperature higher than 102 F (38.9 C)."

Speak to your child’s doctor or a trusted health professional if you have any additional questions or concerns.

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