Properly Taking Your Temperature

Whether you are monitoring signs after being exposed to COVID-19 or watching your child’s flu symptoms, having an accurate reading of a person’s body temperature is an essential tool for managing any illness.  

We put together this guide to help you understand what a fever is, the different ways you can measure body temperature, and information on when it might be time to call your doctor. 

What is a fever?

A fever is a rise in the body’s temperature that occurs due to an infection. While a fever can cause discomfort, it’s a sign the body is fighting off the illness. 

Signs and symptoms of a fever

While feeling warm to the touch can be a sure sign of a fever, there are other symptoms you may experience, depending on the cause of your fever. These signs may include:

  • Sweating
  • Chills and shivering
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability
  • Dehydration
  • General weakness

Normal body temperature vs. fever 

The average body temperature is 98.6° Fahrenheit (or 37° Celsius). When your body temperature rises a few degrees above average, it’s a sign that the body is actively fighting off an infection. 

  • A fever in adults occurs when the body temperature measures higher than 100.4°F
  • A child is considered to have a fever when their body temperature is higher than 100.4°F (taken rectally), 99.5°F (taken orally), or 99°F (taken under the arm).

If you develop a fever, it will usually run its course and can be managed at home with fluids and fever-reducing medications. When a fever rises above 102°F, you should see your doctor right away. 

How to take your temperature accurately 

First, you should always use a digital thermometer to check your temperature. Glass mercury thermometers are no longer recommended due to mercury exposure. 

Before you take your temperature, you should always:

  • Thoroughly read the directions for the thermometer.
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water. Use hand sanitizer if you don’t have easy access to soap and water. 
  • Clean the thermometer before and after each use with rubbing alcohol or soap and warm water. Some thermometers come with covers on the tips, so be sure to replace them before use. 
  • Use a separate thermometer for oral and rectal temperatures. You may want to label them to remember which is which.
  • Wait at least 6 hours after taking fever-reducing medications, like acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or aspirin.

Types of digital thermometers

Oral

A thermometer is placed under the tongue to check temperature orally. This method is best for adults and children four and over who can correctly hold the thermometer in their mouth.

You should wait at least 30 minutes after eating and drinking to get the most accurate temperature. 

Rectal

Usually the preferred method for babies, a thermometer is inserted gently into the rectum. This method can be used in children up to 3 years of age because older kids may have trouble staying still to get an accurate reading. 

Axillary

For this method, the thermometer is placed in the armpit. Since axillary isn’t the most accurate, it’s usually recommended for young children or adults whose temperature can’t safely be done orally and should be followed up with a more precise method. 

Ear 

A digital ear thermometer measures the temperature inside the ear canal through infrared ray technology. These readings can be 0.5°F (0.3°C) to 1°F (0.6°C) higher than oral temperature readings. 

Ear thermometers are often preferred over oral and rectal for children because they are faster and more comfortable. However, you shouldn’t use them in babies younger than six months. 

Temporal artery/Forehead

Temporal artery or forehead thermometers use an infrared scanner to gauge the temperature of the temporal artery in your forehead. 

Many of these thermometers require no physical contact and have become increasingly popular 

in large venues, such as stadiums, airports, department stores, and schools, due to COVID-19. 

How often should I take my temperature?

Many times, our temperature is the first thing we check when we start to feel sick. Likewise, it’s often one of the first questions a healthcare provider will ask.  

If you take your temperature and decide to take a fever-reducing medication to manage symptoms, you should wait the recommended time before retaking the medicine (usually 4-6 hours). You should also check your temperature before taking another dose to see if it’s needed. 

When a temperature is high, you should recheck it more often and record the readings. This will help you know if the medication is helping and if the illness is getting better or not. Recording your temperature will also help your healthcare provider better understand what’s going on to create the best treatment plan. 

When should I call my doctor?

If you or someone in your household experiences fever in combination with any of the following, you should call your doctor right away:

  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Swelling of the throat
  • Confusion
  • Any other concerning changes

Your physician’s office can also recommend the best thermometer for your family, how to use it, and when you should come in to be seen by the doctor. 

Final thoughts

Having a fever can be scary and uncomfortable. However, it’s a sign that your body is fighting an illness. It’s essential to take your temperature accurately to monitor and manage your symptoms. 

Here at SkinStitch, we understand the importance of providing high-quality yet affordable temperature scanners that will help keep people as safe as possible. Reach out to us for more information on using our products as part of your business’ fight against COVID-19