Most mums will know that a home first aid kit is not complete without a baby thermometer. While a fever is not an actual illness, it is a sure sign that something is wrong. Just putting your hand on you baby’s forehead is not an accurate way to tell if the fever is serious or not. For most parents a fever in a young baby, under 3 months old, can be very scary. That’s why you need a baby thermometer which is fast and accurate to take a reading, and to determine whether it’s time to call the doctor or not.
How to tell if your baby is running a fever?
You can take your baby’s temperature at any time, in fact it’s good practice when your baby is behaving as normal. But you should definitely take your baby’s temperature if he or she is showing signs of the following:
- your baby seems generally unwell and warmer than normal,
- he or she is irritable and crying a lot,
- is more sleepy than usual,
- showing signs that he or she is in pain,
- is refusing to drink,
- is vomiting.
The average body temperature for children should be around 37°C. If your child’s temperature is higher than 38°C then they probably have a fever.
What type of baby thermometer do I buy?
With all the different types of baby thermometers available, it can be quite confusing to know how to buy the right one for you and your baby. But regardless of which type you buy, make sure you follow the manufacturers instructions, and make sure you know how to use it before you are faced with an emergency!
- Ear Thermometers – are specially designed to use with young babies, and are quick and easy to use. A digital ear thermometer is less invasive than a probe thermometer, but can be inaccurate if not positioned correctly.
- Forehead Thermometers – use infrared technology to measure the temperature of the temporal artery in the forehead. They are non-invasive and can be ‘scanned’ across the forehead of a sleeping baby. They are convenient, safe and accurate, and can be used for a child of any age.
- Mercury/alcohol thermometers – these old-fashioned glass thermometers contain mercury or alcohol, which pose a threat of poisoning your baby if they break. They are difficult to use and inaccurate. With all the modern baby thermometers available, just throw this one away!
- Digital Probe Thermometers – are the most common types of baby thermometers. You can use them for oral, rectal or armpit readings and are considered pretty accurate. Features vary depending on what you pay for, but can include a fever alert indicator, large display and a recall of the last reading.
Taking your child’s temperature
Whichever baby thermometer you decide to use, make sure you follow the manufacturers instructions. Plus there are some standard tips to follow with each type of thermometer:
- First, for hygienic reasons, put a plastic cover over the tip of the thermometer.
- Place the tip gently just inside your child’s ear canal. Be careful to not push to far in.
- Wait until the thermometer beeps and then check the digital display for the temperature reading.
If you use a digital ear thermometer correctly, it’s accurate to within about 1°C, as long as your child’s ear canal isn’t too small or doesn’t have too much wax in it.
- Check that your child’s forehead is dry before starting.
- Gently scan the thermometer across your child’s forehead.
- Remove the thermometer and then check the digital display for the temperature reading.
- Wait five minutes after your child has had a hot or cold drink.
- Simply place the thermometer under your child’s tongue.
- Wait until the thermometer shows the temperature reading.
Oral temperature readings are best for toddlers over 4 years of age. They should be able to hold the thermometer in their mouth and co-operate with you, which a young baby is unable to do.
- Place the thermometer in your child’s armpit.
- Close your child’s arm over the thermometer, holding his elbow against his body.
- Wait until the thermometer displays the temperature reading.
These readings are the least accurate and they should only be used when you don’t have any other option.
What kind of thermometer suits babies best?
How do you choose the best thermometer for your baby? Do you choose an armpit, oral, rectal or forehead thermometer? The majority of mums we talked to recently suggest that a digital thermometer is the most convenient to use. Gone were the days when taking a temperature means looking at a glass tube laced with dangerous mercury. While rectal thermometers give the most accurate results, many parents are hesitant to use these as they may cause injuries to the baby due to lack of knowledge in using the thermometer. Other suggestions for an easy and accurate solution is a digital ear and forehead thermometer using infrared technology.
What else do I need to know?
Most baby thermometers are very affordable and you will easily find one that fits your budget. Be sure to look out for the following:
- Accuracy – ear and forehead thermometers should be accurate enough, although they don’t claim to be quite as accurate as digital probes.
- Digital display size -the larger the display, the easier it is to read. Ideally it should be backlit too, so you can easily take a reading at night.
- Response time – babies can be hard to keep still, especially when they are unwell. Rather go for a thermometer that will give you a quick reading while also remaining accurate. Infrared thermometers are the fastest, but also a bit expensive.
- Fever alerts – some thermometer models have a display or an alarm to alert you when the temperature is higher than normal.
- Memory readings – many models can recall at least one previous reading, some as many as 35. This is good to detect whether temperature is improving or stabilising.
- Batteries – always keep spare batteries for your digital thermometers, and keep them out of reach of children!
Remember, you can always consult your doctor about the type of thermometer to get for your baby, and how to use it if you haven’t used one before. It also helps to get tips about when to see your doctor based on your baby’s temperature readings, and any helpful tips to get the temperatures down before heading for the emergency room!
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