How to take a fever in children

Children are said to have a fever from 38.5 °C, babies under three months already from 38 °C. The body temperature can be determined most reliably with a clinical thermometer.

Especially for young children, it is important that taking a temperature is quick and requires as little effort as possible, such as dressing, undressing, or holding still. How long the measurement takes depends on where the fever is taken and which thermometer is used.

How can I tell that my child has a fever?? Information about $CMS_IF( ! tt_headline.isEmpty)$$CMS_VALUE(tt_headline.toText(false).convert2)$$CMS_END_IF$

Children can usually tell that they have a fever: A hot, flushed face, tired or glazed eyes, and otherwise pale skin are typical signs. The first thing many mothers and fathers do when they suspect their child has a fever is to put their hand on the child's forehead. If forehead or neck feel hot, it may indicate fever. Many children have no appetite or are whiny. Some children are also very thirsty. What thermometers are available. How accurate are the measurements? Information about $CMS_IF( ! tt_headline.isEmpty)$$CMS_VALUE(tt_headline.toText(false).convert2)$$CMS_END_IF$Battery-powered digital thermometers (contact thermometers) can measure body temperature in the buttocks (anus), mouth (under the tongue ), or armpit. Infrared and chemical thermometers can be used to measure temperature in the ear or forehead. They are more expensive than digital thermometers. To avoid measurement errors, it is important to follow the operating instructions for all models.

The most accurate results are obtained by measuring the temperature in the buttocks or – in the case of children over four years of age – in the mouth. However, taking fever in the armpit, ear or forehead is more comfortable for a child. For measurements in the mouth or under the armpit, a child must already be able to follow along well.

You can also combine two measurement methods: If the ear or forehead thermometer shows an elevated body temperature, you can check it again with a measurement in the buttocks.

To take a fever in the buttocks information on $CMS_IF( ! tt_headline.isEmpty)$$CMS_VALUE(tt_headline.toText(false).convert2)$$CMS_END_IF$

Taking a temperature in the buttocks provides reliable results, but can be uncomfortable for the child. Before inserting the thermometer into the anus, it is best to apply a thin layer of a greasy cream to the thermometer so that it slides more easily and does not hurt the child.

For reliable measurement results, it is sufficient to insert only the tip of the thermometer, i.e. 1 to 2 centimeters. Babies are best placed on their backs with their legs held up. Older children usually prefer to lie on their stomachs.

It is important to clean hands and thermometer thoroughly after measuring, because there can be pathogens in the buttocks.

Taking a temperature in the mouth Information about $CMS_IF( ! tt_headline.isEmpty)$$CMS_VALUE(tt_headline.toText(false).convert2)$$CMS_END_IF$

To take a fever in the mouth, the clinical thermometer is first freshly cleaned. Then it is placed under the tongue at the back. Taking a temperature in the mouth is quite accurate. However, the child must participate: That is, he or she must keep the mouth closed and the tongue still during the measurement, which can be difficult for younger children.

The measurement is distorted if the child has drunk hot or cold drinks shortly beforehand.

Taking a temperature under the armpit Information on $CMS_IF( ! tt_headline.isEmpty)$$CMS_VALUE(tt_headline.toText(false).convert2)$$CMS_END_IF$

When taking a temperature under the arms, the clinical thermometer is placed in the armpit and the arm is held close to the body. This is simple, but can be inaccurate if the child moves too much during the measurement: then the measured values can deviate up to 2 degrees from the real body temperature. On average, taking a fever in the axilla underestimates body temperature by about 0.5 degrees.

Ear thermometer information on $CMS_IF( ! tt_headline.isEmpty)$$CMS_VALUE(tt_headline.toText(false).convert2)$$CMS_END_IF$

Special infrared thermometers for measuring fever in the ear determine the heat emitted by the eardrum. Such ear thermometers work very quickly, but are much more expensive than digital thermometers.

With ear thermometers it is important that the probe of the thermometer points in the direction of the eardrum. This can be done more easily by pulling the child's ear slightly backwards-upwards. The results obtained are on average about 0.3 degrees below the actual body temperature.

Finding the right spot in the ear is not easy for the untrained, especially in babies. The correct use of an ear thermometer is described in the instruction manual. If a few measurements have been taken in the ear and, for comparison, in the buttocks and the results are similar (with a difference of 0.3 to 0.5 degrees), it can be amed that the measurement in the ear is just as reliable.

Forehead thermometers Information on $CMS_IF( ! tt_headline.isEmpty)$$CMS_VALUE(tt_headline.toText(false).convert2)$$CMS_END_IF$

Forehead or temple thermometers are easy to use, comfortable for the child, and work even when the child is sleeping. They are available, for example, as infrared, liquid crystal or chemical thermometers.

However, they are less accurate than other measuring methods, because, for example, sweat on the skin affects the measured values. Therefore, they are currently not recommended when you need an accurate measurement.

Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH). Non-Contact Thermometers for Detecting Fever: A Review of Clinical Effectiveness . 20.11.2014. (CADTH Rapid Response Reports).

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Fever in under 5s: assessment and initial management . 22.05.2013. (NICE Clinical Guidelines; Volume 160).

Niven DJ, Gaudet JE, Laupland KB, Mrklas KJ, Roberts DJ, Stelfox HT. Accuracy of peripheral thermometers for estimating temperature: a systematic review and meta-analysis . Ann Intern Med 2015; 163(10): 768-777.

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