Best Place to Take Temperature

When there is a high fever, many people wonder where the best place to take body temperature may be in order to get an accurate reading. Taking temperature in different places can generate slightly different readings. The common places are ear, mouth, rectum and armpit. But wherever the thermometer is placed, it is important to take the temperature properly. If done incorrectly, none of the places will be a good place.


What Is the Best Place to Take Temperature?

Body temperature can be taken from the ear, mouth, rectum and armpit. However, these are all indirect methods to measure the body temperature, which is not equal to the core temperature. In general, measurement of body temperature from the rectum tends to give higher readings compared to axillary measurement. Rectal or oral temperature measurements are generally more accurate than the other two measurements.

For the adults, any one of these four places can be the best place as long as the slight differences are taken into consideration. But it is not the same for kids. When it comes to young children, looking for the best place to take body temperature is a little more complicated. Here are some things to consider:

  • Children who are at least 4 years old may be able to hold a thermometer under their tongues because now they can control themselves not to bite the thermometer.
  • ŸYounger children and babies may tolerate a rectal thermometer but older ones may resist it.
  • ŸEar thermometers should not be used in children younger than two years old because their ear canals may be too narrow to have the space for a thermometer to fit in.
  • ŸTaking the temperature from the armpit is the easiest way to do it for babies or young children, but it may not be the best place to take temperature if you want more accurate readings.

How to Take Body Temperature

1.   How to Take Oral Temperature

  • Place the tip of digital/disposable thermometer under the tongue.
  • Position the thermometer to one side and close the mouth, with the lips tightly shut.
  • Leave in place for 5 minutes, using a watch or a clock to time it. If you are using a digital thermometer, it has its own timer and will give off a series of beeps when done.
  • Gently remove from the mouth and take the reading.
  • Clean the thermometer with cool water and soap, then rinse before keeping it away.

2.   How to Take Rectal Temperature

  • Rectal measurement is often applied to babies or children. First, apply a small amount of lubricant such as petroleum jelly on the thermometer bulb (tip).
  • On your lap (or a bed), turn the baby/child face down.
  • While spreading the child's buttocks with one of your hands, gently insert the tip of a rectal thermometer about 0.5 to 1 inch (1.25 - 2.5 cm) into the anus with your other hand. Avoid forcing it in too deep. Hold it in place while pressing the buttocks together.
  • Leave in place for about 5 minutes. 
  • Gently remove from the anus and take the reading.
  • Clean the thermometer with cool water and soap, then rinse before keeping it away.
  • Don’t use an oral thermometer to take rectal temperature or vice versa.

3.   How to Take Axillary Temperature

  • Place the bulb of the thermometer in the center of the armpit if you decide it is the best place to take temperature.
  • Press the arm against body.
  • Gently remove from the armpit and take the reading. 
  • Clean the thermometer with cool water and soap, then rinse before keeping it away.

4.   How to Take Ear Temperature

  • Clean the ear probe with a clean cloth. Attach a disposable cover to the ear probe.
  • Turn on the thermometer.
  • Pull one earlobe upward and back. Push the tip gently toward the eardrum.
  • Press the button to display temperature reading.
  • Remove gently and discard the used probe cover.

When to See Doctor for Abnormal Temperature

After the introduction of best place to take temperature and how to take temperature, here is a table showing normal temperature ranges. Any reading beyond these ranges needs medical attention.

 temperature ranges

Call your doctor if your temperature reading is 38°C (100.4°F) or higher. High temperature can be a sign of active infection and this should be treated immediately. Aside from fever, other symptoms that need immediate help include:

  • Stiff neck
  • Severe headache
  • ŸSwelling of the throat
  • Confusion

Children tend to have more serious complications of fever. Bring your child to the Emergency Department immediately if he/she has a fever and any of these conditions:

  • Age younger than 3 months old
  • ŸRecently travelling abroad
  • A rash that appears like small purple dots
  • Vomiting and signs of dehydration (like not peeing)
  • ŸVery pale or grey, cool or mottled skin
  • Constant pain
  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Stiff neck
  • Convulsion/seizure
  • Confusion
  • Loss of normal arm or leg function; inability to stand up
  • ŸProblems breathing
  • Constant cry and irritability
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