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Health Information For Parents
All kids get a fever from time to time. A fever itself usually causes no harm and can actually be a good thing — it’s often a sign that the body is fighting an infection. But a high fever sometimes is a sign of a problem that needs your doctor’s attention.
Here’s how to take your child’s temperature, safely and accurately.
Digital thermometers give the quickest, most accurate readings, and are the only kind that doctors currently recommend. Available in a variety of sizes and shapes, they’re sold at most supermarkets and drugstores.
Read the manufacturer’s instructions to see what the thermometer is designed for and how it signals that the reading is complete.
Digital thermometers are used for these temperature-taking methods:
These types of thermometers aren’t recommended because they’re less accurate:
Glass mercury thermometers were once common, but should not be used because of possible exposure to mercury, an environmental toxin.
As any parent knows, taking a squirming child’s temperature can be a challenge. The best method will depend on a child’s age and temperament.
Turn on the digital thermometer and clear the screen of any old readings. Digital thermometers usually have a plastic, flexible probe with a temperature sensor at the tip and an easy-to-read digital display on the other end. If your thermometer uses disposable plastic sleeves or covers, put one on according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Throw away the sleeve afterward and clean the thermometer according to the manufacturer’s instructions before putting it back in its case.
For babies younger than 3 months, you’ll get the most reliable reading by using a digital thermometer to take a rectal temperature. Call the doctor if your infant is younger than 3 months old and has a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher.
For babies between 3 months and 6 months old, a digital rectal thermometer is still the best choice. A temporal artery thermometer also can be used.
For kids between 6 months and 4 years old, you can use a digital thermometer to take a rectal temperature. You also can use an tympanic (ear) thermometer or a digital thermometer to take an axillary (armpit) temperature, but they’re less accurate.
For kids 4 years or older, you can usually use a digital thermometer to take an oral temperature if your child will cooperate. But kids who are coughing a lot or breathing through their mouths because of stuffy noses might not be able to keep their mouths closed long enough for an accurate oral reading. In these cases, you can use the temporal, tympanic, rectal, or axillary method (with a digital thermometer).
Before becoming parents, most people cringe at the thought of taking a rectal temperature. But don’t worry — it’s a simple and safe process.
Then, place your child:
With your other hand:
Taking an oral temperature is easy in an older, cooperative child.
This is a convenient way to take a child’s temperature. Although not as accurate as a rectal or oral temperature in a cooperative child, some parents prefer to take an axillary temperature, especially for kids who can’t hold a thermometer in their mouths.
Whatever method you choose, keep these tips in mind:
Fevers happen when the body’s internal “thermostat” raises the body temperature above normal. This is often the body’s way of fighting infections.
Fevers are usually not cause for alarm – they’re the body’s way of fighting infection. Here’s what to do if your child has a fever.
Dehydration is when the amount of water in the body has dropped too low. Read about what causes dehydration, what it does to your body, and how to prevent it.
Sometimes kids lose fluids and salts through fever, diarrhea, vomiting, or sweating. Here are some tips on preventing or treating dehydration.
Our bodies need water to work properly. Find out more in this article for kids.
Febrile seizures are full-body convulsions caused by high fevers that affect young kids. Although they can be frightening, theyÂ usually stop on their own and don’t cause any other health problems.
The flu is a virus that can make you sick for a week or longer. Find out more in this article for kids.
Every year from October to May, millions of people across the United States come down with the flu. Get the facts on the flu – including how to avoid it.
It can be hard to know if kids are well enough to go to school or childcare. Here are some guidelines.
What are fevers? Why do kids get them? Get the facts on temperatures and fevers in this article for kids.
Antibiotics are powerful medicines that can help kids feel better — but only when they have certain illnesses. Find out if an antibiotic is right for your child.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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