3 tips for taking baby’s temp

Consumer Reports News: January 03, 2008 11:10 AM

Fever is a fundamental sign of illness, so keeping tabs on your baby’s temp is one of the best ways to help you--Dr. Mom or Dr. Dad--assess whether you’re just imagining that your baby seems off, or if in fact, she’s coming down with something. Here are three top temp tips to keep in mind this cold and flu season:

Take your baby’s temp with a digital rectal thermometer. That’s the most accurate and recommended temp-taking method for children under 3 years old. You can also take a baby’s temperature by mouth, by ear, on the forehead, or under the arm, but they’re much less precise, and you want accuracy. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, rectal readings are the most accurate for kids under age 3. For infants under 3 months old, especially, every tenth of a degree counts. The difference between a temp of 100.3 and 100.4, for example, can determine whether you stay home or take your baby to the emergency room. Any fever in this age group, especially for babies under 4 weeks, is typically considered an emergency, but call your pediatrician first. Look for a digital rectal thermometer that has an LCD display that’s easy to read and a start button that’s easy to press.

Know what a “normal” body temp is. Contrary to popular belief, a normal temperature isn’t exactly 98.6 degrees F. In reality, there’s a normal healthy temperature range, which can run between 97 and 100.4 degrees F for everyone, depending on activity, clothing, even the time of day--body temperature tends to be lower in the morning and higher between late afternoon and early evening. Most pediatricians consider any reading above 100.4 a sign of a fever--a sign that your baby is fighting infection.

Don’t hesitate to call your doctor. When your baby has a fever and you’re worried, calling the pediatrician is the best thing to do, no matter what day or time. Be prepared to report your baby’s temp, the method you used to take your baby’s temp, how long your baby has had a fever, and any other symptoms your baby has. Wait to give a child under two years of age acetaminophen (Children’s Tylenol or generic) or any other fever-reducing medication until your pediatrician gives the OK. Ibuprofen (Children’s Advil or generic), for example, should not be given to children under 6 months or who are vomiting or dehydrated. Don’t use aspirin to treat your child’s fever, either. It has been linked with side effects such as intestinal bleeding, and most seriously, Reye’s syndrome, a severe neurological disorder.

For additional information, see our reports on thermometers and how to use a a rectal thermometer.

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