Learn how to take your baby's temperature when he or she is well, so you will know how to do it when he or she gets sick. Note that ear probe thermometers and pacifier thermometers are not recommended for infants.
To read a thermometer:
- Hold the thermometer sideways so you can see the temperature lines and numbers.
- Turn the thermometer a little until you see a dark, solid line.
- The temperature reading will be the number where the line ends.
- Hold the end without the bulb tightly between fingers and shake the thermometer until the dark line is below 96 degrees.
- After use, clean the end of the thermometer with rubbing alcohol or wash with cool water and soap.
Taking a rectal temperature – The best way to find out if your baby has a fever is taking the baby's temperature in his or her rectum (bottom). A normal rectal temperature is 97.7 to 99.7 degrees. Call the baby's health care provider if the rectal temperature in a baby younger than three months is 100.2 degrees or higher.
To take a temperature rectally:
- Put Vaseline at the end of the thermometer bulb.
- Lie your baby on his or her belly on a firm surface.
- Hold your baby still by gently pressing the palm of your hand against the baby's back just above the buttocks (bottom).
- With your other hand, gently insert the thermometer one-half inch into the rectum. Do not push it in any further.
- If you are using a glass thermometer, hold in place for two minutes and read it. Digital thermometers generally take less time to display a reading. Refer to the package directions for specific information.
- Clean the thermometer with rubbing alcohol after every use.
Taking an axillary temperature – An axillary temperature is taken under the arm. A normal reading is 97.2 to 98.8 degrees.
To take an axillary temperature:
- Take your baby's shirt off.
- Hold the thermometer at a 45-degree angle and place the bulb in the baby's armpit.
- Hold your baby's arm snugly against his or her side.
- If you are using a glass thermometer, hold it under the baby's arm for three minutes and read it. Digital thermometers generally take less time to display a reading. Refer to the package directions for specific information.
- Clean thermometer with rubbing alcohol after each use.
Call your baby's health care provider when he or she has a fever. Be sure to mention if you took the temperature rectally or under the arm.
Telling When Your Baby is Sick
It is normal to be concerned about your baby's health. When newborns are sick, they don't always give you a lot of signs. Because you are just getting to know your baby, it may be difficult to notice a change in behavior. Trust your instincts. If you think your baby is sick, call his or her health care provider. Although usually harmless, call your baby's health care provider if the baby has any of the following symptoms:
- Rectal temperature of 100.2 degrees or higher
- Unusual crying or irritability
- Sleeping too little (less than 12 hours a day) or too much (more than 22 hours a day)
- Forceful or projectile vomiting
- More stools or stools that are different in color or odor
- Disinterest in eating, either refusing to feed or feeding poorly
- Weakness and no energy to cry