A fever is one of the signs that your child is sick, but sometimes it can be hard to tell whether your child's temperature is normal or whether he has a fever. This difficulty is compounded by the different options for thermometers, which vary in accuracy and the age at which you can begin to use them for your child.
A normal temperature is considered to be 99 degrees Fahrenheit or less when taken in your child's mouth, and 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or less if you take it in your child's bottom, according to HealthyChildren.org. Taking the temperature at the temporal artery in the forehead or in the ear is considered to be similar to taking the temperature rectally, so 99.6 degrees Fahrenheit should be considered normal. When your take your child's temperature under the arm, his temperature is usually lower than if it is taken using the other methods, according to Seattle Children's Hospital, so when using this method, 99 degrees Fahrenheit or higher is considered a fever.
Taking Your Child's Temperature
There are a variety of thermometers available. There are thermometers that can be used orally, rectally or under the arm, as well as thermometers that use the temporal artery on the forehead or in the ear. There are even pacifier thermometers to make it easier to get your infant or toddler's temperature. Follow the directions that came with your thermometer to obtain the most accurate reading, and clean the thermometer after each use.
What to Know
Although 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit and 99.6 degrees Fahrenheit are considered normal temperatures, depending on which method you use, there is actually a range of what is considered normal. The Seattle Children's Hospital says that a raised temperature is considered to be a fever when it reaches 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher when taken by ear, temporal artery or rectal methods, 100 degrees Fahrenheit when using oral or pacifier thermometers, and 99 degrees Fahrenheit when taken in your child's armpit. Babies under 12 weeks old who have a fever higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit taken rectally, and children with a fever of 105 degrees Fahrenheit or higher when taken by any method, or 104 degrees Fahrenheit if the temperature is taken in the armpit, should be taken to see the doctor immediately.
An accurate temperature reading is essential to figuring out whether your child's temperature is normal or if she has a fever. Do not take an oral temperature immediately after giving the child a hot drink, or take the temperature at all if the child has just had a bath or is bundled up in lots of clothes, as this can give a higher and inaccurate reading, according to Family Doctor.
Use a regular digital thermometer rectally for your child, if he's under three years old, recommends HealthyChildren.org, as this will give you the most accurate reading. After age three, if your child cannot hold the thermometer under his tongue, either continue using a rectal thermometer or take their temperature using an ear thermometer, temporal artery thermometer, pacifier thermometer or digital thermometer under the arm. Just make sure that any thermometer used rectally is labeled since no thermometer should be used both rectally and orally, advises HealthyChildren.org.