Body Temperature and Fever

One of the signs of illness is a high or low body temperature. Taking your baby’s or child’s temperature under their arm with a digital thermometer is the easiest and safest way of checking to see whether their temperature is normal (not too high or too low). It’s not recommended to take a baby’s or child’s temperature by putting a thermometer in the anus, in the ear, or on the skin (e.g., fever strips). Rectal thermometers may cause damage to the bowel if not used properly. Ear thermometers and fever strips may not give an accurate reading in children under two years old. Glass thermometers are not recommended since they may break.

A normal temperature under the arm is between 36.3°C and 37.2°C.

When to take your childs temperature

Take your child’s temperature when your child:

  • feels warm to the touch or is flushed

  • is fussier than usual

  • isn’t eating well

  • has abnormal sleeping patterns (less or more than usual)

  • has diarrhea or is vomiting

  • appears or acts sick

How to take your babys or childs temperature

Clean the thermometer by following the manufacturer’s instructions. If instructions are not available, clean the thermometer with warm, soapy water and rinse with cool water.

  • Wait at least 15 minutes if your child has just had a bath.

  • Loosen your child’s clothes to the waist.

  • Place the thermometer horizontally under the arm, so that the tip is in the centre of the arm pit and the other end extends out front. Make sure your child’s arm is tucked snugly but gently against their body.

  • Leave the thermometer in place for about one minute, until you hear the beep.

  • Remove the thermometer and read the temperature. Write down the temperature and the time you took it so you can tell your health care provider if they ask.

  • Clean and dry the thermometer after use.

Fever

A fever is a higher than normal body temperature. Fever is a normal sign that your child is trying to fight off an illness or infection. Often you must look at your child’s other symptoms to determine how serious the illness is. Talk to your health care provider or pharmacist before using fever medication with your child.

Babies younger than six months old with a fever need to be seen by a health care provider because they can become sick very quickly.

Children over six months old with a fever need to see a health care provider if the fever doesn’t go down with recommended treatment, lasts more than 72 hours, occurs with other symptoms, or if you are concerned.

The Healthy Parents, Healthy Children team is a part of the larger Healthy Children and Families’ team at Alberta Health Services. Find them on Facebook at Healthy Parents, Healthy Children or follow on Twitter @AHS_HPHC. For questions or comments, contact hphc@ahs.ca

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