How to Take your Toddler's Rectal Temperature

Submitted by Pregnancy and Baby Care team on August 20, 2012

A high temperature is the body's way of fighting infection, and this is true even for toddlers. A parent, though, tends to immediately worry and rush the child to emergency care. Before you are tempted to do that, make sure you take your toddler's temperature and check whether this is really necessary. Ninety-eight point six degrees Fahrenheit is considered normal body temperature. Low grade fever of up to 101 degrees Fahrenheit is fever you can deal with at home.


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If your child's temperature goes higher than this, she may need medical care. If the temperature touches 103 degrees Fahrenheit, you need emergency care immediately.

You can record your child's temperature using a number of different methods.

Some of the common ways to take temperature for a toddler are rectal reading, oral reading, underarm or auxiliary readings, and ear, forehead or pacifier readings. All of these methods have some positives and some negatives.

What are rectal thermometers?

Rectal thermometers are thermometers specially designed for insertion into the anus. Generally speaking, auxiliary and rectal thermometers are interchangeable, but most doctors use a separate thermometer for recording of rectal temperatures and today special thermometers designed for rectal use are easily available. This method can sometimes be an uncomfortable or even embarrassing way to record body temperature. For this reason, this method is usually employed only with children and infants.

Rectal thermometers nowadays are made of plastic and are digital. Earlier, thermometers would be made of glass and used mercury to record temperatures. When you are looking to buy a rectal thermometer, look for one with a flexible tip and a wide handle. This design will prevent you from inserting the thermometer any more than necessary and will not cause any damage either.

How to read rectal temperature

Taking rectal temperature in a toddler, as compared to other methods, is the most authentic but also the most uncomfortable. As a parent, you can make it easier and more accommodating for the toddler by understanding proper use of the instrument.

To take rectal temperature readings, first clean the thermometer with warm water and disinfectant. Rub it dry. You can even use rubbing alcohol to disinfect it. Once it has been cleaned, make sure the last reading has been reset.

Rest your child in a comfortable position on his tummy, distracting the child if necessary. Try and time the temperature taking to about 20 minutes after a bath. Apply petroleum jelly on the tip of the thermometer to make it less uncomfortable. Your child might resist, but if this happens, you should pacify the child and then take the temperature. Spread the child's legs apart till the anus is visible. Gently slide the thermometer in, about half to one inch deep. If you feel any resistance, do not do insert the thermometer. Wait till the thermometer beeps, which is usually after about 60 seconds. Remove the thermometer and note the temperature. This reading is usually the most accurate temperature reading.

Once you have take the temperature, clean the rectal thermometer and place in a cool, dry place, separate from the other thermometers, if you have any.

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