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It's clear from the available evidence that temperatures taken rectally are the most accurate. The most accurate">





 
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What's the best way to take a one-year old's temperature? My girlfriend insists the only way to get an "acurate" reading is to do it rectally. I told her this is causing her daughter unecessary discomfort, especially when her daughter isn't feeling well. For my daughter, I use a digital thermometer and place it under her armpit and this works just fine. What's your opinion on this?
    

Dear "concerned" friend:

Thank you for your question.

It's clear from the available evidence that temperatures taken rectally are the most accurate. The most accurate temperature is rectal. An axillary temp (one taken under the arm pit) is an approximation, at best, since it is rarely done properly. In most instances, it may be of limited value to know the exact measurement of your child's temperature when you are evaluating their medical needs. Temperature is just one of many factors used in the management of common childhood illness. Other factors, such as irritability, pain, playfulness, appetite and rashes may in fact be either just as important or more so in making a decision on how to proceed. There is no magic temperature that can be used as a criteria by itself for deciding whether a child's illness is serious or life threatening except in very small infants.

Because of all of these variables in the management of childhood illness, there are many different philosophies as to how temperature should be measured. In my own practice, In most physician's offices where temperature is taken, temperature is screened with a digital thermometer in the armpit or an ear probe thermometer. Then the child is evaluated for alertness, misery and fluid intake before making a decision about future action. An exception to this rule is in infants less than 3 months of age. In these children, it is important to know the exact degree of fever and parents should consult medical help for temperature greater than 100.5 degrees rectally.

In a one year old child with a fever who does not appear ill otherwise, we would actually suggest not taking the temperature automatically. Treat with anti-pyretics (fever reducing medication) in those children who appear miserable for symptomatic relief.

Over the years most pediatricians have learned that the Mom thermometer (her hand) is more accurate than any thermometer. Again, what is most important is not the degree of fever but your child's appearance, appetite, alertness, and playfulness. If after giving your child medication they are still very lethargic, for example, their pediatrician should be consulted, no matter what the thermometer says!!

Different doctors may take different approaches, and you may want to discuss this matter with your physician the next time your child is seen.

For more information, see "Child Feverish - Keep your Cool" and "Fever Often a Friend - Not a Foe" on our site.

 

As a reminder, this information should not be relied on as medical advice and is not intended to replace the advice of your child’s pediatrician. Please read our full disclaimer.

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