New parents may find it overwhelming when they want to buy a thermometer in a drugstore. Fifteen years ago, thermometer comes in 1 or 2 forms, but now, you are spoiled for choices, from old fashioned glass thermometer to state of art digital thermometer. If you are planning to buy one good thermometer, let me share with you some of the useful tips in helping you to choose the right thermometer for your kids.
- Avoid glass mercury thermometer. If a glass thermometer breaks, mercury vaporize and may be inhaled by the child which result in damage to central nervous system, kidney or lungs. Also, you may find it difficult to get the reading from the glass thermometer. If you want to get glass thermometer, be sure to get those mercury-free like the one below.
- Go for digital thermometers. They give reading faster. Make sure you get those which beep or buzz when the reading is complete. What I really like about digital thermometer is that they are easier to read and most come with memory to store previous reading. The downside is that you need to replace batteries.
After deciding to get digital thermometer, we will drill down into rectal, ear and forehead thermometer.
- For infant below 6 months or as old as 4 to 5 years old, rectal thermometer gives more accurate reading compared to oral, ear or forehead measurements. However, this method is not suitable for active children because excessive movement may cause pain and injury.
- Digital oral thermometer is recommended for child who is more than 1 year old. However, this thermometer is not suitable if a child’s nose is congested because he may not breathe through his nose long enough for reliable accuracy. I have tried pacifier oral thermometer but found that it is less accurate because babies normally do not close the mouth tightly.
- Thermometer meant for under arm (auxiliary) is the worst choice because you need to wait longer for the temperature to register. That is why temperature under the armpit runs low and therefore not accurate if you do not have the patient to wait.
- Ear (tympanic or aural) thermometer does not work well for infant below 6 months old because their soft ear canals are too small to provide accurate reading. Also, you need more accurate reading for infants. It is more suitable for older children.
(I am using this Braun thermometer for my kids. Have been using it since year 2009 and have only good things to say about it)
- The latest one is forehead thermometer (also known as temporal artery thermometer). It uses infrared light to measure a person’s temperature by reading the temperature of the skin over an artery located in the temple. Not only this method is suitable for babies and children, it works well for adult too. The only concern is that it is more expensive. Though rectal thermometer gives the most accurate reading for small children, many parents, including myself, prefer forehead thermometer because it is much more convenient to use it. It is fast and painless. Therefore, I highly recommend it.
- How about fever strips stuck at the foreheads? Fever strips are placed on kid’s forehead and some will light up in the dark that makes it easier for reading. It is good for a fast estimation. However, if you want accurate reading, you still need a thermometer.
Some manufacturers have even come out with digital thermometer meant for both ear and forehead.
Tips in Using Thermometer
- Read the thermometer instruction carefully.
- Clean your rectal or oral thermometer thoroughly after and before using it. Clean it with soapy water to avoid spreading germs to other family members.
- If possible, keep separate thermometers for rectal, oral and armpit readings. Marked them accordingly.
- If you are using disposable cover, do not reuse them.
- Be sure to record down the exact temperature with decimal places because 37.0° C and be very different than 37.9° C, especially for infants.
- If you are using glass thermometer, inspect it first to detect any cracks or chips.
- Take multiple readings to get the average figure to determine whether the child is ill.
- If you are using rectal thermometers, lubricate lightly the probe with petroleum jelly and gently insert it up to about one inch into the child’s rectum without forcing it. The child should lay still for 2 to 3 minutes for an accurate reading, and placing a hand gently on their lower back helps calm and reassure them long enough to take their temperature. Alternatively, take rectal temperature when the child is asleep.
- For oral thermometer, to get more accurate reading, place the thermometer properly under the tongue, slightly off center. It should not be used immediately after the child has eat or drink anything because the temperature of food may influence the reading.
- If you want to use ear thermometer for child who is sleeping, do not use it on the ear that has been lying on a hot pillow or has been covered by blankets, which may distort the reading. Wait for 15 minutes before taking the temperature. Never force the ear thermometer to fit tightly.
- Avoid using forehead thermometer after the child has taken a bath.
- Last but not least, do not just look at the number on the thermometer to determine if you have to take your kids to the doctor. You have to combine other method to assess whether your kids are fine. After all, any temperature you take in just an approximation of body temperature. Look at the face to see whether they are pale. Do not forget about their energy level too.
Some Common Knowledge You Should Know About Human Body Temperature
You need to know that human body temperature changes at different times of the day and it may vary in different parts of the body. For instance:
- The temperature will be 37° C or 98.6° F when taken orally.
- Slightly higher at about 37.6° C or 99.6° F rectally.
Apart from that, body temperature is slightly lower in the morning and slightly higher after vigorous activity.
Reading over 38° C or 100.4° F is considered a sign of fever. Low grade fever is 38.4° C or 101° F while high grade fever is over 39.4° C or 103° F.
With the above information, I hope that you will be able to get a reliable digital thermometer. And do not get panicked next time if your kid is unwell. Take the body temperature fist.
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