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 Taking your child’s temperature

  • Shake down the mercury in the thermometer.
  • Hold your child on your knee and tuck the thermometer under his or her armpit.
  • Hold your child’s arm against his or her body, and leave the thermometer in place for at least five minutes. It may help to read a story or watch television while you do this.

Normal body temperature

  • Under the arm, normal temperature is slightly lower than under the tongue – about 36.4oC (97.4oF).
  • Under the tongue, normal temperature is about 37ºC (98.4ºF), but may vary a bit. 

Strip-type thermometers

This thermometer is held on your child’s forehead but is not an accurate way of taking temperatures. It shows the skin and not the body temperature.

Ear thermometers
A digital thermometer is put in the child’s ear. They take the temperature in one second and do not disturb the child, but are expensive.

Babies under six months

Always contact your GP if your baby has other signs of illness as well as a raised temperature and/or if your baby’s temperature is 39oC (102oF) or higher. If the doctor doesn’t find a reason for the temperature, he or she will almost certainly want to send a urine specimen to the laboratory. A detailed test will show if your baby has a urine infection.

Older children

A little fever isn’t usually a worry. Contact your GP if your child seems unusually ill, or has a high temp-erature which doesn’t come down. 

It’s important to encourage your child to drink as much fluid as possible. Cold, clear drinks are best. Even if your child isn’t thirsty, try to get him or her to drink a little and often, to keep fluids up. Don’t bother about food unless it’s wanted.

Bringing a temperature down 

This is important because a continuing high temperature can be very unpleasant and, in a small child, occasionally brings on a fit or convulsion .

  • Give your child plenty of cool clear fluids.
  • Undress your child to his or her nappy or pants and vest.
  • Cover with a sheet if necessary.
  • Keep the room cool by turning the radiators down or opening a window.
  • Give paracetamol in the correct recommended dose for your child’s age every four hours.

After these measures, take the temperature in your child’s armpit if you have a thermometer. If the temperature is above 40-41oC (104–105oF) or your child still feels feverish, try sponging your child’s body, arms and legs with tepid water. Do not use cold water as this causes the blood vessels to contract and less heat will be lost. Always give the paracetamol before starting sponging.

We are indebted to Health Promotion England for their help in compiling this section.