Best Way to Take a Temperature in Kids - Joy Through Chaos

Best Way to Take a Temperature in Kids

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image of baby getting temperature taken

I can’t explain a moment more full of panic than when you think your new baby has a fever—especially as a first-time parent. Learning how to take a temperature isn’t something you see on any ‘baby preparation’ list, but it should be. When you think your child has a fever, you need to know how to take a temperature correctly.

The very first time my oldest child got a fever, I was a disaster. We had a crappy ear thermometer, and I couldn’t get it to work. I was completely distraught. I grabbed the old-school digital thermometer and quickly you-tubed ‘how to take a baby’s temperature.’

How embarrassing.

I’m a healthcare professional. I knew how to take a temperature, but at that moment I completely forgot.

Has that ever happened to you? Something you KNOW is just… gone. You can’t remember what to do, and you freeze.

I don’t ever want you to feel the panic I felt when I was desperately trying to figure out how to take a temperature in my baby.

There’s a symptom tracker in the toolkit for you to use when your kids get sick! You need access to the toolkit to snag it.

Types of Thermometers


Rectal thermometers are a simple digital thermometer, but with a flexible tip. Some even have a safety stop so that the thermometer isn’t inserted too far into a child’s bum. A rectal temperature is the most accurate temperature you can take; you’re getting your child’s core temperature. Most physicians recommend a rectal temperature for infants under the age of three months.


These thermometers are explicitly designed to be used in a child’s ear. They’re incredibly convenient for older kids but are generally not accurate for children under six months old. You also need to use them correctly. Otherwise, you’ll get an inaccurate reading. Ear wax can also interfere with the reading on an ear thermometer.


Temporal thermometers measure temperature by activating an infrared scanner when the device is physically swiped across the forehead. It measures the heat in the temporal artery in the forehead.  These are great for taking a middle of the night temperatures without waking a child, but you need to follow the directions exactly to get an accurate reading.


These little devices are fantastic. They’re a thermometer inside of a special pacifier and are incredibly easy to use in young babies. Surprisingly, pacifier thermometers are quite accurate too!


Digital thermometers can be used in the mouth and the armpit (axillary). It’s not advised to take an oral temperature in a young child because they aren’t able to keep the thermometer in the proper place to get a good reading. Also note that axillary temperatures (while easier to take in young kids), will be less accurate. The body temperature reading under a child’s arm will be lower than when taken orally or rectally.

image of different types of thermometers laying on a table


How to Take a Temperature

Reading specific instructions detailed in the manufacturer’s directions is imperative. But, if you tend to toss them out (like I do), these are general guidelines for how to get a good temperature reading.

There’s a symptom tracker in the toolkit for you to use when your kids get sick! You need access to the toolkit to snag it.


  1. Ensure baby’s bum is clean and dry
  2. Turn the thermometer on
  3. Insert thermometer to safety stop point, or about an inch. (NOTE- You can use vaseline or other lube if needed)
  4. Try to keep the baby as still and calm as possible
  5. Wait for the DING


  1. If possible, remove any wax from the child’s ear canal.
  2. Prep thermometer by adding a new ‘cap’ if required
  3. Gently tug the child’s earlobe back and slightly up to open the ear canal slightly
  4. Place the thermometer into the ear canal and push the button
  5. Wait for the DING


  1. Make sure the thermometer is flat on the child’s forehead between the hairline and eyebrows
  2. Push the button and swipe straight across the forehead
  3. Do not release the button yet—lift the thermometer and view your reading.


Digital Thermometer

  1. Ensure the thermometer is clean and dry
  2. Slide it under your child’s tongue
  3. Press the button and wait for the DING
  4. Remove and view

Pacifier Thermometer

  1. Ensure the thermometer is clean and dry
  2. Turn on
  3. Place in baby’s mouth
  4. Wait for the DING
  5. Remove and view


  1. Ensure the thermometer is clean and dry
  2. Turn on
  3. Place securely under the child’s armpit
  4. Wait for the DING
  5. Remove and view

Note: You may want to hold your baby’s arm down to make sure the thermometer stays in place.

When you think your child has a fever, you need to act. Read all about the different types of thermometer and how to take a temperature correctly!

Additional Tips

  • Never take a temperature immediately after you bathe your baby or as soon as they wake up from a nap since their body temperature may be elevated.
  • Don’t have unrealistic expectations—your baby is not going to be able to hold a digital thermometer under their tongue.
  • If your thermometer comes with a cap, be sure to clean it regularly.
  • Check Your Batteries. Many thermometers run on batteries. So, it’s always smart to do a battery check every so often (especially during cold and flu season) to make sure your device is ready to go.

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Until Next time! Chrissie







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