Learning About Taking Your Temperature

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How do you take your temperature?

Ear and electronic thermometers

Body temperature is a measure of how well your body can make and get rid of heat. You can take your temperature by using a thermometer. There are specific types to use in different parts of the body.

Most people have an average temperature of about 37°C. But "normal" varies from person to person. Your temperature also changes during the day. It's likely to be lowest in the early morning. And it's probably highest in the early evening. In most adults, an oral temperature above 38°C, or a rectal or ear temperature above 38.3°C, is considered a fever.

There are many places on the body to take your temperature. The mouth, ear, and armpit are the most common. Sometimes the forehead is used.

To take a temperature by mouth (orally)

  1. Put the thermometer under your tongue, a little to one side of the centre. Close your lips tightly around it.
  2. Leave it there for as long as the instructions say.
  3. Remove the thermometer and read it.
  4. Clean the thermometer with cool, soapy water. Rinse it off before you put it away.

To take an armpit (axillary) temperature

  1. Put the thermometer under your arm. The tip should be in the centre of the armpit.
  2. Press your arm against your body. Leave the thermometer there for as long as the instructions say.
  3. Remove the thermometer and read it. An armpit temperature may be as much as 0.5°C lower than an oral one.
  4. Clean the thermometer with cool, soapy water. Rinse it off before you put it away.

To take an ear temperature

  1. Check that the part that goes in the ear is clean. This is called the ear probe. If it is dirty, wipe it gently with a clean cloth. Do not get it wet.
  2. Turn the thermometer on.
  3. Press the "on" button to see the temperature reading.
  4. Remove the thermometer. Then throw away the used probe cover.
  5. Use disposable covers to keep the ear probe clean. Put on a new one each time you take an ear temperature.

To take a forehead temperature

  1. Press the soft cup of the thermometer or the entire plastic strip firmly against a dry forehead.
  2. Hold it there for as long as the instructions say.
  3. Read the temperature. Then remove the thermometer.
  4. Clean the thermometer with cool, soapy water. Then rinse it off before you put it away.
  5. Forehead thermometers are not as accurate as electronic and ear ones.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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