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Narrator: LIKE MANY PARENTS, JADE DREADS HAVING TO TAKE HER BABY’S TEMPERATURE.
Jade Urenda: “Whenever she feels hot, I kind of freak out a little bit because it's really difficult to take her temperature, just because she wiggles around so much.”
Narrator: TODAY, JADE AND 4-MONTH-OLD OLIVIA ARE VISITING DR. LISA ASTA – A PEDIATRICIAN IN WALNUT CREEK, CALIFORNIA – FOR A HANDS-ON DEMONSTRATION OF THE WAYS TO TAKE A YOUNG CHILD'S TEMPERATURE.
Dr. Lisa Asta: “A lot of parents are anxious about taking their child's temperature, but it's a skill that’s easily learned and they’ll be able to use for many years to take care of their child’s health.”
Narrator: HERE ARE YOUR MAIN CHOICES FOR TAKING THE TEMPERATURE OF A CHILD AGE 3 OR YOUNGER.
Ways to take a young child's temperature
- Rectum – most accurate; most helpful for doctors
- Armpit – also called axillary or underarm
- Forehead – requires a temporal artery thermometer
- Ear – requires a tympanic thermometer
- Mouth – an option when child reaches age 4 or 5
Narrator: THE MOST ACCURATE WAY TO TAKE A YOUNG CHILD'S TEMPERATURE IS IN THE RECTUM, OR BOTTOM. DOCTORS TYPICALLY BASE MEDICAL DECISIONS ON RECTAL TEMPERATURES.
OTHER OPTIONS INCLUDE TAKING THE TEMPERATURE IN THE ARMPIT, ALSO CALLED AN AXILLARY OR UNDERARM READING;
ON THE FOREHEAD, WITH A TEMPORAL ARTERY THERMOMETER;
OR IN THE EAR, WITH A TYMPANIC THERMOMETER.
ONCE YOUR CHILD REACHES AGE 4 OR 5, YOU CAN TAKE HIS OR HER TEMPERATURE ORALLY. UNTIL THEN, STICK TO ONE OF THE FIRST FOUR METHODS.
TO TAKE A RECTAL OR UNDERARM TEMPERATURE, USE A DIGITAL THERMOMETER. THESE CAN BE FOUND AT THE DRUGSTORE FOR UNDER $10. MOST DIGITAL THERMOMETERS CAN BE USED IN THE RECTUM, ARMPIT, OR MOUTH, BUT SOME ARE SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED FOR USE IN THE RECTUM.
Dr. Asta: “If you take temperatures more than one way in your house, you should mark your rectal thermometer so you use that for rectal temperatures only.”
Dr. Asta: “Hi Jade, Hi Olivia, nice to see you. Are you ready to come on back?” [in doctor office lobby]
Jade: “I am, thank you."
Dr. Asta: “All right.”
Dr. Asta: “How are you? Oh, you keep your skirt down. Oh, it’s so pretty.” [to Olivia on exam table]
Dr. Asta: “So let’s start with the rectal temperature, since that’s the most accurate.”
Dr. Asta: “Rectal temperatures are the gold standard for measuring temperatures in infants under 3 months and the most accurate way to get excellent temperature results in infants and toddlers. Doctors base significant medical decisions on accurate temperatures and these are rectal temperatures.”
Jade: “This is the method that makes me the most uncomfortable, just because I feel really awkward doing it.”
Dr. Asta: “Mmmm hmmm, okay. So we’ll go through it step by step.”
Dr. Asta: “The concern with the rectal temperature that many parents have is how far to put it in, and you see this big thermometer and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ But it really only needs to go in about a half an inch to an inch. [video of ruler]
Narrator: PARENTS' UNEASE IS UNDERSTANDABLE: THEY DON'T WANT TO ACCIDENTALLY INSERT THE THERMOMETER TOO FAR. BUT FOLLOWING A FEW SIMPLE STEPS WILL ENSURE A SAFE, EFFECTIVE, AND TROUBLE-FREE EXPERIENCE.
FIRST, WASH YOUR HANDS AND CLEAN THE THERMOMETER WITH RUBBING ALCOHOL OR SOAPY WATER.
YOU’LL ALSO NEED A LUBRICANT LIKE PETROLEUM JELLY.
Dr. Asta: "It makes it go in a little bit easier if you use something to lubricate the tip.”
THERE ARE TWO POSITIONS YOU CAN USE TO TAKE A RECTAL TEMPERATURE.
Narrator: FOR THE FIRST ONE, PLACE YOUR BABY ON HER BACK ON A FIRM SURFACE. TURN YOUR THERMOMETER ON AND USE ONE HAND TO EITHER BEND YOUR BABY’S LEGS IN TOWARD HER CHEST OR EXTEND THEM TOWARD THE CEILING. USE YOUR OTHER HAND TO INSERT THE THERMOMETER.
Dr. Asta: "And then we’re going to hold the legs up, and, insert the thermometer no more than a half inch to an inch in the rectum. Stop if you feel any resistance." [Olivia grunts]
Narrator: KEEP A FIRM GRIP ON YOUR BABY’S BUTTOCKS BY CUPPING THEM WITH THE PALM AND FINGERS OF THE HAND THAT’S HOLDING THE THERMOMETER. AND BE SURE NOT TO LET GO OF THE THERMOMETER UNTIL YOU'RE FINISHED – IT WON’T STAY IN PLACE IF YOUR BABY STARTS WRIGGLING.
Dr. Asta: “We’re going to wait for it to beep. [Olivia starts to cry] Yes, and we’re all ready. And then we can take it out and read…”
Narrator: FOR THE OTHER POSITION, PLACE YOUR BABY BELLY DOWN ACROSS YOUR LAP WITH HER LEGS DANGLING OVER THE SIDE OF YOUR THIGH.
Dr. Asta: “You ready, Olivia? Okay… And this is a great way because the baby’s legs are supported and you don’t have to sort of hold them up. And then we would get the diaper undone. And, not a bad idea to have something underneath you, because of course sometimes with a rectal temperature the babies will poop. And we will, um, get the thermometer with a little bit of lube on it. And then spread the cheeks a little bit and put your thermometer probe in just that little half, half an inch, and wait until the thermometer beeps off. [Olivia grunts] Yeah, oh, Olivia you’re doing great. Who’s a good baby? Who’s a good baby? Okay, and now we have a temperature.”
Narrator: BE SURE TO WASH YOUR HANDS AND THERMOMETER AFTER FINISHING.
ANOTHER OPTION IS TO TAKE AN UNDERARM TEMPERATURE. IT'S NOT AS ACCURATE AS A RECTAL READING, SO IF YOU GET A READING HIGHER THAN 99 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT, THE DOCTOR MAY NEED YOU TO TAKE A RECTAL TEMPERATURE ANYWAY.
TO TAKE AN UNDERARM TEMPERATURE, UNDRESS YOUR BABY FROM THE WAIST UP AND MAKE SURE HER ARMPIT IS DRY. NEXT, CLEAN THE THERMOMETER, TURN IT ON, AND PLACE IT UNDER HER ARMPIT. YOU CAN CRADLE HER IN YOUR ARMS OR SIT HER UPRIGHT IN YOUR LAP.
Dr. Asta: "Sometimes you can feed the baby, sometimes she can have a special toy. And then we’re just going to sneak this underneath her underarm and hold her arm against her body. Hi Olivia, how are you doing?”
Narrator: BE SURE TO HOLD YOUR BABY’S ARM FIRMLY AGAINST HER SIDE – OR KEEP IT BENT AND FOLDED ACROSS HER CHEST – SO THAT THE TIP OF THE THERMOMETER STAYS IN FULL CONTACT WITH HER SKIN.
Dr. Asta: “And now we have a reading and we can pull it out and we can read the temperature that we have.”
Narrator: IF YOU WANT TO TAKE YOUR CHILD'S TEMPERATURE SOME OTHER WAY, YOU'LL NEED TO BUY A SPECIAL THERMOMETER.
A FOREHEAD READING REQUIRES A TEMPORAL ARTERY THERMOMETER, OR FOREHEAD THERMOMETER. THESE ARE MORE EXPENSIVE THAN REGULAR DIGITAL THERMOMETERS BUT VERY EASY TO USE, QUICK, AND RELATIVELY ACCURATE.
AN EAR READING REQUIRES A TYMPANIC THERMOMETER, OR DIGITAL EAR THERMOMETER, WHICH IS ALSO MORE EXPENSIVE. IT WORKS QUICKLY AND WON'T CAUSE YOUR CHILD DISCOMFORT, BUT IT CAN BE TRICKY TO USE. IF YOU DON'T POSITION IT CORRECTLY IN THE EAR CANAL, YOU WON'T GET AN ACCURATE READING, AND IT’S NOT SUITABLE FOR SMALL BABIES.
SO THERE YOU HAVE IT. IF YOU FEEL CALM AND CONFIDENT TAKING YOUR BABY’S TEMPERATURE, CHANCES ARE YOUR LITTLE ONE WILL BE CALM, TOO.
Jade: “Thank you so much for all of your tips today. I feel a lot more comfortable taking her temperature now.”
Dr. Asta: “That’s great. Thanks for coming by. Bye Olivia!