How do I know if my child has a temperature?

Feeling your child’s forehead may tell you if he has a temperature. However, you will need a thermometer to determine how high (or low) his temperature actually is.


What are my thermometer options?

Digital thermometer

The digital thermometer is ideal for taking fast and accurate temperature readings. It comes highly recommended.

Ear thermometer

This thermometer is used to take very quick temperature readings from the ear. However it is expensive and if not rightly placed, could give misleading readings.

Strip type thermometer

To take a temperature reading using this thermometer, the strip is held against the child’s forehead. The reading obtained is not accurate because it takes the skin temperature rather than the body temperature.

Mercury in glass thermometer

If by any chance your mom or grandmom has this thermometer, don’t use it because it contains poisonous mercury and can easily break. It is no longer used in most hospitals.


How do I use a digital thermometer?

Armpit Temperature Reading

If your child is less than 5 years old, lie or sit him comfortably across your knee and place the thermometer under his armpit. Gently but firmly hold the thermometer in place for the time recommended by the manufacturer. Most digital thermometers have been designed to beep when the accurate temperature reading has been reached. So when you hear the beep, remove the thermometer and check its reading on the digital display screen.

Oral Temperature Reading

If your child is older than 5 years old, his temperature can be taken orally by placing the end of the thermometer under his tongue and towards the back of his mouth. He must then keep his lips closed until the thermometer beeps.

Rectal Temperature Reading

This is the most accurate temperature reading. It is taken by placing the thermometer in your child’s bottom. In some cultures moms find this method offensive and evasive. Hence, it is not commonly used. However in cases such as that of a new born, where accurate readings are imperative, the rectal temperature is taken in the hospital. This is done by coating the tip of the thermometer with petroleum jelly and placing half an inch of it into the rectum. In case any resistance is felt, stop! Then hold the thermometer in place until the beep is heard.


What temperature readings are considered normal?

Measured under the arm, normal temperature is 36.4°C (97.5F). Under the tongue, normal temperature is slightly higher, at about 37°C (98.6F). Rectally, it is 37.5°C.


Are there situations that give misleading temperature readings?

Yes, there are! Readings could be wrong if your child was just unwrapped from a blanket, just took a bath, has been very active, just left a very warm room, was just clinging unto something warm or was just wearing a lot of clothes.

In any of these situations, let him cool down for a few minutes before taking his temperature.


How do I care for my thermometers?

  • Segment and label your thermometers in order to avoid mix ups. You definitely would not want to mistakenly use a rectal thermometer, orally.
  • Before and after using the thermometer, clean with  lukewarm, soapy water and rinse in cool water.

(Picture courtesy:,,,,,, askthenp.blogspot)