How to Take Your Baby’s Temperature

The AAP recommends parents use a digital as opposed to a mercury thermometer to prevent from accidental poisoning.

Uh oh, your little one’s cheeks are looking a bit blush. Feel his or her forehead with the back of your hand. While it might feel a bit warmer than usual, only a thermometer can provide accurate results as to whether or not your baby has a fever.

If he or she is experiencing other signs if illness such as the chills, coughing, vomiting or overall irritableness, you’ll definitely want to take the temperature and consider visiting a pediatrician. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you use a digital thermometer, not  a mercury one, to cease the risk of accidental exposure to mercury poisoning. There are three types of digital thermometers you can choose from: multiuse (rectal, oral or axillary), temporal artery or tympanic. All devices should be properly and thoroughly sterilized prior to taking your baby’s temperature. Clean the device with lukewarm, soapy water or rubbing alcohol. Rinse it off with cool water once you’re done. Hold the thermometer in place until you hear the beep. Carefully remove the device and check the digital reading to find out how high his or her fever is.

Here’s a guide on how each thermometer works:

“Clean the thermometer with lukewarm rubbing alcohol prior to use.”

Digital multiuse

The digital multiuse thermometer reads your baby’s body temperature when the sensor located at the tip of the device grazes part of his or her body. From birth to 3 years of age, take the temperature rectally and gently place it in his or her tushy. For children 4 to 5 years of age, take their  temperature by placing the thermometer in the mouth. Taking a baby’s temperature by putting the thermometer under his or her armpit is the least reliable, so consider sticking to the first two.

For oral use, place the tip of the thermometer underneath your baby’s tongue toward the back of the mouth.

Gently lay your baby across your lap, and hold him or her still with your hand against the small of the back. Insert the the tip of the thermometer about 1/2 to an inch into the his or her tushy. Loosely hold the thermometer in place with a couple of your fingers. Be sure not to insert the thermometer too far or it will cause serious discomfort for your little one. Consider putting some lubricant on the thermometer like petroleum jelly for a seamless and painless insertion.

Temporal artery

The temporal artery thermometer is a nifty device that measures the infrared heat waves released by your baby’s temporal artery. For an accurate reading, run the thermometer across or along the side of your child’s forehead. The temporal artery thermometer should be used on children who are 3 months or older.


Similar to the temporal artery thermometer, the tympanic one also reads infrared heat waves – this time by the ones that are released from the eardrum. Simply place the thermometer in your child’s ear, but be careful not to go too deep or you will severely damage his or her ear drum. It is recommended that you use this device on children who are 6 months or older. For an accurate reading, the thermometer needs to be placed correctly in the ear canal. Additionally, having too much earwax can cause the reading to fluctuate, giving you inaccurate results.

No mom likes to see her baby sick, but learning the right way to take a baby’s temperature is an essential step in making your little one feel better.