By Allison Godchaux, NP

Fever – how do you do it right?  I am feeling hot tonight!

Fevers: something we or our friends and family have had at one time or another.  It should be easy to figure out whether or not someone has a fever.  It should be pretty straightforward determine this, but it’s not.  So, let's spend a moment to talk about it.

What is a temperature?  To make it simple:

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Unfortunately, taking a temperature isn’t so precise that we can say to specifically add or deduct 0.5 or 1.0 degrees Fahrenheit (F) or 0.3 to 0.6 Celsius (C).  If a patient is sick, we don’t just rely on the number on the thermometer, we also look at the patient's other symptoms as well!  

Other factors to consider when taking a temperature:

1.     Type of thermometer you are using.

-       Ear (Tympanic) – the amount of earwax in an ear can lower the number you get.  A narrow ear canal can also lower the number.  Don’t try and push it in, either!

-       Axillary or armpit – if the thermometer isn’t positioned correctly, the number you get will likely be lower than it really is.  Make sure you place the thermometer deeply into the center of the armpit, then lower the arm on top of the thermometer next to the body, holding it firmly.

-       Orally – if you have had anything to eat or drink within ½ hour of taking your temperature, it may falsely lower or raise the number depending on what you have consumed.

Remember: No drinking or eating (if you can avoid it) up to ½ hour of taking an oral temperature!

2.     Consider the age of the person whose temperature is being taken when choosing the appropriate thermometer type.  Below is a diagram that makes it simple:

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 Common questions medical providers are asked in regard to taking temperatures:

How long should I take the temperature?  Unless your thermometer beeps at you to indicate when to stop, leave it in place for 3 minutes.

Should I compare the temperature in two different areas if I am not sure I am right?  Not necessarily, and it isn’t necessary to double-check with different types of thermometers.  Find a thermometer you like, and get used to using it. Try it on your family members.  When you need to use it, you will be comfortable using it, and will have faith in the numbers you get.

I prefer a pacifier thermometer for my baby, what do you think of those?  Honestly?  I love them! …I love the idea of them anyway.  The problem is, when you have a sick kiddo, they usually don’t want to keep the pacifier in long enough to get a good reading.  Unless your experience of this is different than mine, I would stick with a temporal (forehead) or rectal thermometer.

I don’t want to use a rectal thermometer- I’m worried that I will push too far or hurt my baby!  I absolutely understand.  When you use a rectal thermometer, use a little Vaseline or petroleum jelly (same thing) on the end of the thermometer, then insert it a ½ inch into the rectum.  I insert it with my thumb and index finger and use my other fingers to brace my hand and the thermometer against the baby’s bottom so as to not push it in too far. If your thermometer is the type that beeps at you, wait for the beep, and then remove thermometer. Don’t forget to read it immediately!  If it isn’t the kind of thermometer that beeps at you, then hold it in place for 3 minutes, and then take out the thermometer.

I was told that I should never use a rectal thermometer orally, even if I wash it really well.  Is this true?  As a matter of safety, it is true.  I am sure that you do wash it well, but we don’t want to take any chances.  If we were to transfer some bacteria from the rectum accidentally, we could make our sick child even sicker.  Good question!

If you have any other questions or concerns, don't hesitate to log on and ask your Ns1ghter provider!