If your child feels flushed or seems to be a little bit under the weather, it’s probably time to take his or her temperature. Sounds easy enough — but for first-time moms, it can be a bit terrifying. You may have a lot of questions in mind. For infants, using a rectal thermometer would be the most suitable option. So, how do you use a rectal thermometer? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is Rectal Temperature?
A rectal temperature is an accurate way of taking your child’s temperature. Rectal temperatures are usually taken on children less than 5 years old. Rectal temperature can be taken by placing the thermometer gently in your child’s rectum. The rectum is the end of the bowel. Make sure you follow directions correctly when taking a rectal temperature. Doing otherwise can cause harm to your child. Avoid taking a rectal temperature if your child has had surgery on his rectum or has any kind of rectal problems.
Why Use Rectal Temperature to Check for Fever?
The rectal temperature is the most accurate way to know if your child is suffering from fever. Temperature taken in the rectum is the best way to finding the body’s actual temperature. Rectal temperatures run higher compared to those taken in the mouth or armpit. The average rectal temperature of a child should be between 97° and 100° F (36.0 to 37.7° C).
Types of Rectal Thermometers
Currently, there are two approved types of rectal thermometers. The digital thermometer and the glass thermometer. Here are some facts you need to know before deciding which will be a better choice for you.
A digital thermometer can be used to take a rectal temperature. It is a small hand-held device with a screen display to show your child’s accurate temperature in numbers. There are several kinds of digital thermometers. Most digital thermometers are convenient to use and can measure body temperature in a few seconds. Digital thermometers are readily available at the grocery, drug, or medical supply stores.
Galinstan or alcohol-filled glass thermometers can also be used to check your child’s rectal temperature. Galinstan thermometers have silver-colored tips and lines but are mercury-free. Be particularly careful to stay with your child while taking a rectal temperature using a glass thermometer. Infants and children may flick and break the thermometer. Try to hold the thermometer in place for a few minutes to get a correct reading. Alcohol-filled and galinstan glass thermometers are harder to find though in grocery stores than digital thermometers.
How Do you Use a Rectal Thermometer?
Here is the step-by-step process on how to take a rectal temperature.
Using a digital thermometer:
- Take the thermometer out of the packaging.
- Clean the pointed end of the thermometer with alcohol or soap.
- Slide the probe cover if available.
- Use a small amount of petroleum jelly to lubricate the end of your thermometer.
- Lay your child face-up across a flat surface.
- Turn on the thermometer and gently slide the probe into your child’s rectum for about a ½ inch. If it becomes difficult to insert, remove the thermometer, and try again. Never force the thermometer in your child’s rectum.
- Hold the thermometer in place. Always stay with your child to avoid any untoward incident.
- Wait until the thermometer “beeps.”
- Remove the thermometer.
- Read the numbers on the screen display.
- Remove the probe cover if applicable.
- Wash the probe of your thermometer with soap and alcohol after use.
Using Glass thermometer:
- Take the thermometer out of its packaging.
- Clean the thermometer with alcohol or soap and lukewarm water. Avoid using hot water because it may cause the thermometer to break.
- Hold the thermometer by one end, opposite the red, blue, or silver-colored bulb.
- Shake the thermometer downward numerous times.
- Turn the thermometer until you see the line clearly. It should read less than 96 degrees F (35.6 degrees C). If the line reads more than 96 degrees F (35.6 degrees C), shake the thermometer again.
- Lubricate the bulb end with a small amount of petroleum jelly.
- Lay your child on his stomach across a flat surface.
- Place the red, blue, or silver end into the rectum about 1 inch. Never force the thermometer if it gets difficult to insert.
- Hold the thermometer in place while taking your child’s temperature.
- Keep the thermometer steady for 3 minutes.
- Remove the thermometer gently.
- Hold the thermometer until you see the end of the red, blue, or silver-colored line. Each long mark is equal to 1 degree. Short marks at 0.2 degrees.
- Clean the thermometer with alcohol or soap after use.
Read all directions that come with the thermometer carefully. They will give you thorough instructions on how to use a rectal thermometer. Before and after use, make sure to clean the tip of the thermometer following the instructions provided. If you plan on using a digital thermometer to take a rectal temperature, take another one for oral use. Label each thermometer, and never use the same thermometer in both places. Get more tips on first aid.