If your baby is showing signs of a raised temperature, fever or illness you should check their temperature using a thermometer as this will indicate whether your baby needs further medical help.

Thermometers can be bought from most supermarkets and pharmacists and should be stored somewhere easily accessible in your home, possibly as part of your first-aid kit.  There are a few different types of thermometer and you may want to ask your pharmacist for advice before purchasing one.

Generally, it is recommended that you use a digital thermometer as these give the most accurate reading of your child’s temperature, whatever their age.

You should read the manufacturer’s instructions before using your digital thermometer. However, generally for children under the age of five, you should take your child’s temperature by placing the thermometer under their armpit against their bare skin. Hold the thermometer in place with one hand and use your other to keep the arm firmly and gently against your child’s body.  The thermometer should stay in place for a set time as stated in the instructions (usually 15 seconds) and then your child’s temperature will be shown on the display.

Some parents prefer to use an ear thermometer. These are usually much more expensive but are very quick and easy to use in an older baby, child or adult. However, if your child is under 3 months, it can be very difficult to get an accurate reading as the ear canals are often too narrow.

To use an ear thermometer you need to keep your child’s head still and place the thermometer in your child’s ear. You should aim the tip straight towards your child’s eardrum and make sure that there is a good seal around the tip of the thermometer and your child’s ear.  Then press the start button and hold the thermometer in place until the reading has been taking.  Usually the ear thermometer will beep or flash a light to indicate the thermometer is in the correct position and to notify you that the reading has been taken.

You should not use the strip-type thermometer which you hold onto your child’s forehead: they are not very accurate as they display the temperature of the skin rather than the temperature of the body.

You should also not use the ‘old’ mercury-in-glass thermometers.  These are no longer available to buy as they can break meaning that you may put your child at risk from broken glass or from the poisonous mercury.


What do I do with the reading?

You should seek medical advice from your doctor’s surgery or your health visitor if:

  • your child is under three months old and has a temperature of 38°C (101°F) or higher
  • your child is between three and six months and has a temperature of 39°C (102°F) or higher
  • your child is over six months, has a fever ( temperature over 37.5°C) and is also experiencing other symptoms of illness including sickness, being extremely tired or being floppy.
  • If it is not possible to contact your doctor or health visitor and you are concerned about your child, you should use your local out-of hours service.


by Jenny, mum to William and James

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