How to Take a Baby’s Temperature

image001The normal body temperature for an adult, child or baby is between 36 Celcius (96.8 Fahrenheit) to 37 Celcius (98.60 Fahrenheit). When your baby has temperature below 36 Celsius, it means that he needs “warming up.” An infant with fever should be treated as an emergency case and that is why you should check their temperature. If your child seems to be under the weather or feels warm to your touch, you should take his temperature. Then, how to take a baby's temperature can be a spiny issue for many new parents. 

As simple as this may sound, you might have some questions if it is your first time. What type of thermometer should I use? Are there any thermometer guidelines I should use for older children and babies? Here are some things you need to know when taking a baby’s temperature.

What Thermometers Can I Use to Take My Baby’s Temperature?

Before answering the quesiton of how to take a baby's temperature, you should know what thermometers you can use to take a baby's temperature.


Descriptions of Accuracy

Digital thermometers

This usually gives the most accurate and quickest readings. Digital thermometers come in different shapes and sizes and can be found in many pharmacies and supermarkets. They also range in prices. With a digital thermometer, temperature can be taken orally via the axillary or the rectal.

Electronic ear thermometers

This is used to measure the temperature inside your baby’s ear (tympanic temperature). Although you can easily use them in older kids and children, their accuracy does not measure up to that of digital thermometers especially when measuring kids younger than 3 months. They are also more expensive.

Plastic strip thermometers

These are small strips that are pressed against the baby’s forehead. Even though they can tell you whether the child has fever, they are not reliable when you want to take the exact temperature.

Forehead thermometers

These are also capable of telling you your child’s temperature. However, they are not accurate when compared to rectal or oral digital thermometers.

Pacifier thermometers

These may seem convenient but their readings are less reliable than rectal thermometers. They should also not be used for infants who are three years or younger. When using them, you should make sure that the kid keeps it in the mouth for a few minutes without moving.

Glass mercury thermometers

These were once common but are now not used because of the risks associated with exposure to mercury. If you own one, do not dispose it in the bin because the mercury may leak. Ask a physician how you can dispose your mercury thermometer.

How to Take a Baby’s Temperature

1. General Introduction

  • For Kids younger than 3 months

For baby’s younger than three months, a digital thermometer is the most reliable when taking rectal temperature. Electronic ear thermometers are not recommended for infants under 3 months because their ear canals are too small.

  • For kids between 3 months to 4 years old

You can take rectal temperature using a digital thermometer or an electronic ear thermometer for taking temperature through the child’s ear canal. You can also use a digital thermometer when taking axillary temperature although it is less accurate.

2. Specific Procedures

  • Rectal temperature




Lubricate the tip of thermometer with lubricant such as petroleum jelly.

Place your baby properly

Place the child on your lap with belly down and keep the palm along the lower back. Alternatively, place the child face-up and have the leg bent towards his/her chest and hold the thighs back with your legs.


Take your other hand and insert the thermometer in the child’s anal opening about half an inch or an inch. This is until the tip is fully inside the child’s rectum. Stop if there is resistance.


Steady that thermometer using your 2nd and 3rd finger as you cup the baby’s bottom. Soothe the child and also speak softly as you hold the thermometer.


When you hear the correct number of beeps or signal to tell you that the temperature has been taken, read the temperature and then remove it. Besides, note the time the temperature was taken.

  • Oral temperature



Ensure the mouth empty

Take oral temperature 20 or 30 minutes after the child has taken a drink or eaten. Besides, ensure that the child’s mouth is empty.

Put it in the mouth

Take the thermometer’s tip and place it under the child’s tongue. Ask the child to close the lips. Remind him/her not to bite the thermometer and to breathe normally and relax.

Read after beeps

Wait for the beeps for confirmation that the temperature has been taken. Read the temperature and write it down along with the time of day it’s taken.

  • Axillary temperature



Take off clothes

Remove the child’s shirt. If she/he is wearing an undershirt, remove it, too.

Place it properly

Place your thermometer under the child’s arms. It must touch the skin only.

Write it down after beeps

Wait for the beeps that confirm the temperature has been taken. Write down the temperature and time temperature was taken.

Safety Consideration

  • Regardless of the type of thermometer being used, make sure that you have carefully read the instructions provided.
  • Clean the thermometer’s tip before and after using it. Clean it by rubbing some soap or alcohol on it and using lukewarm water to rinse.
  • If you intend to use a digital thermometer for rectal temperature reading, make sure that you get another one which you’ll not use in future to take oral temperature.
  • To take accurate readings and for safety, never leave the child unattended when taking his/her temperature.

Check out this video on how to take a baby’s temperature accurately:

When Should I Be Concerned?

  • If the baby’s temperature is about 101.3-102.2 Farenheit (38.5 Celcius – 39 Celcius), then you should be concerned. Your baby will need medication to reduce the temperature. As you wait for effects of the medication to take place, strip down the baby and give them tepid bath. If there is no change an hour later, seek medical attention.
  • If your baby has a temperature of 39 Celcius (102.2 Farenheit) and 40 Celcius (104 Farenheit), they need urgent medical attention or infant paracetamol. The child might be at risk of experiencing a febrile convulsion or fit.
  • Many times, fever does not harm the child because it is the body’s way of fending off infections. However, the fever can also be a sign that there is something serious happening inside. If you are not sure whether you have taken the temperature right, or if you are worried about the baby, take him/her to a pediatrician/doctor.