How to Check Infant Temperature: Safely & Accurately Guide

how to check infant temperature

One of the most crucial aspects of taking care of an infant is monitoring their body temperature. Slight changes in temperature can indicate the onset of a fever, which is a common sign of illness in infants. However, checking an infant’s temperature can be intimidating, especially for new parents or caregivers.

It is important to note that accurate temperature monitoring is critical to ensure prompt treatment and prevent potential complications. In this guide, we will provide you with all the information you need to safely and accurately check an infant’s temperature.

Key Takeaways

  • Accurate temperature monitoring is crucial for prompt treatment and preventing complications in infants.
  • Checking an infant’s temperature can be intimidating, but proper technique and thermometer usage can make it easier.

Why Is Checking Infant Temperature Important?

As a parent or caregiver, it’s essential to keep a close eye on your infant’s body temperature. A high fever can be a sign of illness or infection, and infants are particularly vulnerable to these conditions. Therefore, regular temperature checks are crucial to identifying potential health concerns and taking prompt action.

Here are a few tips for effective infant temperature checking:

  1. Choose the right thermometer: There are several types of thermometers available for infant temperature checking, including rectal, oral, ear, forehead, and axillary thermometers. Each has its own advantages and limitations, and it’s essential to choose the best one for accurate readings.
  2. Prepare for temperature measurement: Before taking an infant’s temperature, it’s crucial to create a safe and comfortable environment and ensure the baby is in the correct position for the chosen thermometer type. Inaccurate readings can result from improper positioning or environmental factors such as drafty rooms.
  3. Use the proper technique: Each thermometer type has its own technique for taking accurate readings. As a caregiver, it’s essential to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to ensure reliable temperature measurements.

In addition to these practical tips, it’s important to be aware of the different temperature measurement methods and when to seek medical advice based on readings. By staying informed and vigilant, you can ensure your infant’s well-being and take prompt action in case of any concerns.

Choosing the Right Thermometer

When it comes to selecting a thermometer for your infant, it’s crucial to choose one that provides accurate and reliable readings. Some of the most commonly used thermometers for infants include:

Thermometer TypeProsCons
Rectal Thermometer-Most accurate method for infants under 3 months.
-Fast and easy to use.
-May cause discomfort to your infant if not positioned properly.
-Not recommended for older infants.
Oral Thermometer-Suitable for infants over 4 months old.
-Convenient and easy to use.
-May not provide the most accurate readings.
-May be difficult to use with a fussy infant.
Axillary Thermometer (Underarm)-Quick and easy to use.
-Non-invasive and safe.
-May not provide the most accurate readings.
-May require a longer measurement time.
Ear Thermometer-Provides quick and easy readings.
-Non-invasive and safe.
-Suitable for infants over 6 months old.
-May not provide accurate readings if not positioned correctly.
-May be affected by earwax buildup or ear infections.
Forehead Thermometer-Non-invasive and safe.
-Provides quick and easy readings.
-Suitable for infants over 6 months old.
-May not provide the most accurate readings.
-May be affected by sweat, hair, or other factors.

When selecting a thermometer, consider your infant’s age, temperament, and any special needs they may have. Always read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and follow them closely for accurate temperature readings.

Preparing for Temperature Measurement

Prior to checking your infant’s temperature, it is important to make necessary preparations to ensure accurate and safe measurements. Creating a calm and comfortable environment can also make the process less stressful for both you and your infant.

Here are a few steps to follow before measuring your infant’s temperature:

  • Clean the thermometer: If you are using a reusable thermometer, wash it with soap and warm water and dry it thoroughly. Disposable thermometers can be used directly from the packaging.
  • Check the thermometer instructions: Ensure that you are using the thermometer correctly by reading and following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Choose the measurement location: Select the appropriate measurement location based on your infant’s age and the type of thermometer you are using. See our previous section “Choosing the Right Thermometer” for guidance.
  • Position your infant: Depending on the measurement location, position your infant accordingly. For example, if you are using the rectal method, position your infant on their back with their knees bent and gently insert the thermometer into their rectum.
  • Wait: Allow your infant to acclimate to the environment and rest for at least 10 minutes prior to measuring their temperature to avoid any external influences on their body temperature.

By following these simple steps, you can ensure that the temperature measurement process is safe and comfortable for your infant while also obtaining accurate readings.

Rectal Temperature Measurement

Rectal temperature measurement is a reliable and accurate method for checking an infant’s temperature. It is commonly recommended for infants under 3 months old, as it provides the most precise reading. Before starting, ensure you have a rectal thermometer and a clean, disposable probe cover.

First, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water. Lay your baby on their back and gently lift their legs, bending their knees toward their chest. Apply a small amount of petroleum jelly or water-based lubricant to the tip of the thermometer and insert it into your baby’s rectum, no more than ½ inch deep for infants.

Hold the thermometer in place until it beeps or until around three minutes have passed, indicating that the reading is complete. Remove the thermometer and dispose of the probe cover. Be sure to clean the thermometer with soap and water or rubbing alcohol before and after use.

Note: Rectal temperature measurement should not be used if your infant has had rectal surgery, diarrhea, or any other condition that affects the rectum.

Oral Temperature Measurement

Oral temperature measurement is suitable for older infants who can keep a thermometer safely in their mouth. This method is less invasive than rectal temperature measurement, but it is essential to ensure the infant keeps their mouth closed during measurement for accuracy.

To measure your infant’s temperature orally, first, clean the thermometer using an alcohol swab or warm soapy water and rinse it under cold water.

Next, turn the thermometer on and place the tip under your infant’s tongue, ensuring it touches the side of their mouth and not the center of their tongue. Ask them to keep their mouth closed around the thermometer without biting it.

Wait until the thermometer beeps, indicating a reading is complete, and then remove it from your infant’s mouth. Record the temperature and clean the thermometer again before storing it safely.

It is essential to wait for at least 15 minutes after your infant eats or drinks anything before taking their temperature orally, as this can affect the reading. Additionally, you should avoid using an oral thermometer if your infant has oral injuries or infections.

Axillary Temperature Measurement

The axillary method is another effective way to measure an infant’s temperature. This method involves placing the thermometer under the infant’s armpit and ensuring it makes contact with the skin.

To take an accurate axillary temperature, first, make sure the infant’s armpit is dry. Place the thermometer under the armpit and hold the arm against the infant’s body. Keep the thermometer in place for the recommended amount of time, usually around five minutes, or as per the instructions of your chosen thermometer.

It’s important to note that the axillary method may not provide the most precise temperature reading as it may be affected by the clothing the baby is wearing, and the thermometer may not always make direct contact with the skin.

Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific thermometer model for recommended usage and safety precautions, including how to clean and sanitize the thermometer. Keep in mind that different thermometer types may vary in their accuracy and ease of use.

Ear Temperature Measurement

Ear temperature measurement is a popular and convenient method for checking an infant’s temperature, especially for older infants who can hold still for a few seconds. Ear thermometers measure the temperature inside the ear canal, which reflects the body’s core temperature. However, ear temperature measurement may not be suitable for infants under six months old, as their ear canals may be too small for accurate readings.

When taking ear temperature measurements, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. The ear probe should be inserted gently into the ear canal and pointed towards the eardrum for accurate readings. It is also essential to check the thermometer’s position to ensure that it is properly aligned with the ear canal.

It is worth noting that ear temperature measurements may be affected by external factors such as earwax buildup, inflammation, or injury to the ear. In these cases, it is best to select an alternative measurement method and seek medical advice if necessary.

Other Considerations for Accurate Infant Temperature Measurement

Obtaining an accurate temperature reading in infants can be challenging, but there are additional tips and considerations that can help ensure reliable measurements.

Firstly, it is important to use the same thermometer for both rectal and oral readings on the same infant, as using different thermometers can result in inconsistent readings.

Secondly, always use the thermometer as directed by the manufacturer. Failure to do so can lead to inaccurate readings.

Thirdly, it is advised to wait at least 30 minutes after feeding or administering medication before taking an infant’s temperature, as this can affect the accuracy of the reading.

Fourthly, ensure that the infant is not swaddled or dressed in heavy clothing before the temperature measurement, as these can affect the accuracy of the reading.

Finally, it is important to take note of any external factors that can affect the infant’s body temperature, such as a warm environment or exposure to direct sunlight, which can result in false high readings.

By following these additional tips and considerations, parents and caregivers can obtain more reliable temperature readings for their infants when monitoring their overall health.

Other Considerations for Accurate Infant Temperature Measurement

When measuring your infant’s temperature, there are additional tips and considerations you should keep in mind to ensure accurate readings:

  1. Technique is important: Whether you are using a rectal, oral, axillary, ear, or forehead thermometer, the technique you use can impact the accuracy of the reading. Make sure you follow the instructions carefully and use the appropriate technique for the selected method.
  2. Proper thermometer usage: Using the thermometer correctly can also affect the accuracy of the temperature reading. Check the instructions for proper use, including how long to wait before taking the reading and how to clean the thermometer.
  3. Consider using a backup method: If you are unsure of the accuracy of the thermometer or suspect it isn’t functioning correctly, consider using a backup method for measuring your infant’s temperature.
  4. Take multiple readings: When monitoring your infant’s temperature, it can be helpful to take readings at multiple points during the day to get a better understanding of any changes and how your infant is responding to treatment.

By following these tips and considerations, you can ensure that you are getting an accurate reading of your infant’s temperature and taking the necessary steps to keep them healthy and comfortable.

When to Call a Doctor

While measuring your infant’s temperature is an essential part of monitoring their health, there are specific circumstances in which you should seek medical advice immediately.

If your baby is under three months old and has a rectal temperature above 100.4°F, call your pediatrician immediately. For babies over three months old, a rectal temperature of 102°F or above requires immediate medical attention, as does a fever accompanied by other symptoms like dehydration, difficulty breathing, or a rash.

If your infant has a fever and is under three months old, your pediatrician will likely recommend a visit to the emergency room or urgent care center for further assessment and treatment.

Tips for Comfortable Temperature Measurement

Measuring an infant’s temperature can be a source of anxiety for both parents and children. However, with a few simple tips, you can ensure that the process is as comfortable as possible for your little one:

  • Choose a thermometer that is appropriate for your infant’s age and weight. This will ensure that you get a reliable reading without causing discomfort.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for using the thermometer. This will prevent you from using the wrong technique or causing injury.
  • Make sure that the thermometer is at room temperature before using it. A cold thermometer can cause discomfort or even shock to your infant.
  • Position your infant in a comfortable and secure way. This will help to prevent any sudden movements that could affect the reading.
  • Offer your infant a pacifier or breastfeed them during the temperature measurement. This can provide comfort and help to distract your infant from the process.

Remember that a temperature measurement is just one aspect of monitoring your infant’s health. By taking the necessary steps to ensure that this process is as comfortable as possible, you can help to reduce your own stress levels and promote your infant’s overall well-being.

Maintaining the Accuracy of Thermometers

Ensuring the accuracy of your thermometer is crucial for obtaining reliable and consistent temperature readings. Here are some tips to maintain the accuracy of your thermometer:

Clean your thermometer properlyIt is important to clean your thermometer before and after every use. Use alcohol or soap and water to clean the thermometer, ensuring that it is dry before using it for the next measurement.
Store your thermometer correctlyAvoid storing your thermometer in direct sunlight or extreme temperatures, as this can impact its accuracy. Store your thermometer in a clean and dry area, free from exposure to moisture or dirt.
Calibrate your thermometerRegular calibration of your thermometer ensures accurate temperature readings. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the specific thermometer, or seek professional calibration services if necessary.

By following these tips, you can maintain the accuracy of your thermometer and ensure reliable temperature measurements for your infant.


Caring for an infant can be overwhelming, but monitoring their temperature is a crucial part of their overall health and well-being. With the right preparation and techniques, you can accurately and safely measure your infant’s temperature, providing peace of mind and ensuring timely medical attention when needed.

Remember to choose a reliable thermometer suitable for your infant’s age, carefully follow the instructions for use, and take into consideration the factors that can affect the accuracy of temperature readings. Additionally, be sure to maintain the cleanliness and calibration of your thermometer to ensure consistent and accurate results.

If you are ever unsure or concerned about your infant’s temperature or overall health, do not hesitate to seek medical advice. It is always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to the health of your precious little one.

Stay vigilant and keep your baby safe and healthy!


Q: How to check infant temperature safely and accurately?

A: Checking an infant’s temperature safely and accurately requires proper techniques and equipment. It is recommended to use a reliable thermometer designed for infants and follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer.

Q: Why is checking infant temperature important?

A: Monitoring an infant’s temperature is crucial to detect and monitor fevers, which can be a sign of illness or infection. It helps parents and caregivers make informed decisions regarding their child’s health and seek medical attention if necessary.

Q: How do I choose the right thermometer for my baby?

A: When selecting a thermometer for an infant, consider factors such as accuracy, ease of use, and age appropriateness. Options include rectal thermometers, oral thermometers (for older infants), axillary thermometers, ear thermometers, and forehead thermometers.

Q: What preparations should I make before measuring my baby’s temperature?

A: Before measuring an infant’s temperature, create a safe and comfortable environment. Ensure the thermometer is clean and functioning properly. Position the baby correctly according to the method being used (rectal, oral, axillary, ear, or forehead).

Q: How do I measure my baby’s temperature using a rectal thermometer?

A: To use a rectal thermometer, lubricate the tip with a water-based lubricant, gently insert it into the baby’s rectum, and hold in place until the thermometer beeps. Remember to clean the thermometer thoroughly after each use.

Q: How do I measure my baby’s temperature orally?

A: For older infants capable of keeping their mouths closed, place the thermometer under their tongue and ask them to keep it still. Wait until the thermometer beeps, remove it, and record the temperature.

Q: How do I measure my baby’s temperature using the axillary method?

A: To measure the temperature with the axillary method, place the thermometer under the baby’s armpit and ensure it makes contact with the skin. Hold the baby’s arm against their side and wait until the thermometer beeps.

Q: How do I measure my baby’s temperature using an ear thermometer?

A: When using an ear thermometer, gently place the tip into the baby’s ear canal while pulling their ear backward. Make sure the thermometer is properly aligned with the ear canal and press the button to take the temperature.

Q: How do I measure my baby’s temperature using a forehead thermometer?

A: Forehead thermometers, such as temporal artery thermometers, are placed on the baby’s forehead and moved across the skin to measure the temperature. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for accurate readings.

Q: What are some other considerations for accurate infant temperature measurement?

A: It is essential to properly position the baby, use the thermometer correctly, and follow the recommended technique for each measurement method. Additionally, avoid taking temperature measurements immediately after the baby has been eating or drinking.

Q: When should I call a doctor regarding my baby’s temperature?

A: It is advisable to contact a doctor if your infant has a high fever (over 100.4°F or 38°C), is under three months old, has persistent fever or other concerning symptoms, or if you are unsure about their condition.

Q: How can I make the temperature measurement process more comfortable for my baby?

A: To ensure your baby is comfortable during temperature measurements, keep the room warm, use a gentle touch, and provide soothing words or distractions. Making the process quick and efficient can also help minimize discomfort.

Q: How can I maintain the accuracy of thermometers?

A: To maintain the accuracy of thermometers, clean them properly according to the manufacturer’s instructions, store them in a safe and dry place, and check for calibration regularly. If necessary, follow the recommended calibration process.

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