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How do I take someone's temperature?


Posted by Be Well

How do I take someone's temperature?
 
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You can use a thermometer to quickly and easily take someone's temperature. Always make sure that the thermometer is clean, and that you read the instructions beforehand. If, after taking someone's temperature, the thermometer shows a raised temperature, take another reading about 20 minutes later to confirm it.

A normal temperature can range from 36-36.8C (97.7-99.1ºF). A temperature of 38C (100.4F), or above, is classed as a fever.

If you're taking the temperature of a child, always stay with them during the reading, and put the thermometer away immediately afterwards.

You can buy thermometers from your local pharmacy, where a member of staff should be able to advise you about which thermometer will best suit your needs. There are lots of different types of thermometer available for home use, some of which are outlined below.

Mercury thermometers

Mercury thermometers are now being phased out, because they are dangerous if they get broken. Mercury is poisonous if swallowed, or if it comes into contact with the skin.

Only adults should use mercury thermometers because children are more likely to bite it and break the glass. You should shake a mercury thermometer before you use it. This is so that the mercury goes back into the bulb of the thermometer, which will allow you to take an accurate reading To take a person's temperature, you can place a mercury thermometer either in their mouth, or under their armpit.

Digital thermometers

As with mercury thermometers, digital thermometers can also be used to take someone's temperature from either their mouth or armpit.

When you take a reading from the armpit, you should note that the temperature will be about 0.5C lower than the body's core temperature. This means that you should add about 0.5C to the reading to get a more accurate idea of the temperature.

Armpit readings are not the most reliable or accurate way of taking the temperature. However, they may be a more suitable and safe way of taking the temperature of a small child.

When taking an armpit reading, put the thermometer directly against the skin under the arm, and hold the arm gently against the chest. You may have to leave the thermometer there for up to five minutes to get an accurate reading.

Temperature readings from the mouth are not suitable for very small children because they may bite the thermometer. However, they are an accurate and easy way to take an adult's temperature. Place the thermometer under the tongue for approximately 2-3 minutes. If the person has just eaten something very cold, or hot, wait 10 minutes before taking a reading.

Thermometer strips

Thermometer strips are placed on the forehead. The strips give an approximate reading telling you if the person's temperature is normal, too hot, or too cold.

As thermometer strips measure the temperature of the skin, rather than your body, they are not entirely accurate. However, they offer a quick and easy way to measure a person's temperature, and are particularly useful for taking a child's temperature. Using both hands, hold the strip on your child's forehead. Keep your fingers away from the heat-measuring panels, and hold it there for 2-3 minutes.

Ear thermometers

Ear thermometers are expensive, but they are quick and easy to use. Read the instructions carefully to find out how long the reading will take, before gently placing the ear thermometer inside the ear. If the person has been outside in the cold, or lying on a pillow, wait for 10-15 minutes for their temperature to adjust before taking the reading.

Many ear thermometers can be used on small babies, but check that yours is suitable before you use it. Ear thermometers are not always entirely accurate so they should not be used if a very precise reading is required.

NOTICE: The information provided on this site is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on Wellsphere. If you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.
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