One of the first things all mummies need to learn ASAP is how to measure baby temperature.
Monitoring your little one’s temperature is important to find out if he’s sick, something that usually translates into a higher baby temperature or fever.
Fever is one of our bodies’ defence mechanisms, and most times it means there is a virus or bacteria attacking the organism. And how is a high baby temperature a kind of defence? Well, both viruses and bacteria have a harder time surviving if the organism’s temperature increases!
There are other reasons baby temperature can rise, though, like as a side effect after getting a vaccine. After vaccinations, your paediatrician or GP will warn you about baby temperature rising as a possible side effect, but monitor your baby nonetheless in case the fever gets our of hand – which would be very uncommon.
What is a normal temperature for babies?
It is considered that the normal baby temperature is 36,4ºC (97,4F), but keep in mind that in this matter (as in many baby-related matters), every baby is different and baby temperature can vary from one to another. However, it is considered that the baby (or child, or adult) has a fever if his temperature rises over 37,5ºC (99,5F).
However, in babies with a natural lower baby temperature, being close to 37,5 without reaching it or surpassing it could be considered already a reason to worry and monitor your baby more closely during the following hours or days. It won’t be news for you that some people are “colder”, meaning that they have a natural lower temperature – and this can happen with babies too. For instance, if your baby is usually around 36ºC and is now 37,4, it’s convenient to keep an eye on him even if he doesn’t have a fever – yet, at least.
Baby temperature: Can we “see” the fever?
Of course, the instrument you will need to measure baby temperature is a thermometer. Before using it, though, there are several signs that can lead you to think that your little one’s baby temperature is higher than normal, like the following:
He feels hotter to the touch: You probably remember how, as a child, your mum used to touch your forehead or cheeks often and with a worried look in her face. Are you doing the same yet? Touching your baby’s forehead, back, stomach or cheeks is a good way to quickly verify a rise in baby temperature. You will do it so often that it will become some sort of a mummy reflex!
He’s sweaty: it could be that he’s just hot, but if you don’t think he’s wearing more clothes than he should for the weather, he might as well have a fever. If you touch him and you feel his skin humid and cold, there you have another sign of a higher baby temperature.
He has flushed cheeks, reddish eyes, or both: another pretty clear sign of your baby having a fever.
Don’t be mislead by your baby’s good mood if you notice these symptoms: not all babies become cranky with a mild fever! He could still have a high baby temperature and be happily playing on a blanket with his toys.
Baby temperature: Time to use the thermometer!
So, you’ve already been warned by your baby’s flushed cheeks, sweat or baby temperature high to the touch. Time to check if there really is a reason to worry: Get your thermometer!
There are several types of thermometer you can use to measure baby temperature. Whichever you choose (and we’ll get to that in a moment), make sure the circumstances to measure it are adequate. There are several things that could alter the results, like using the thermometer in a very warm room, while you’re bathing your baby or if he’s wearing very thick clothes. In the case of younger babies, having them wrapped in a blanket could also lead to an altered result. This doesn’t mean you need to go outside, to a very cold room, or strip your baby to the bone: just remove some clothes and give them a few minutes to cool down, and make sure there is a good baby room temperature.
Once you’re sure you’re in the right environment to measure baby temperature, pick up the tool! Digital thermometers are considered to be the most effective. Many people trust the traditional mercury-in-glass thermometer more than the digital, but the latter is actually better for a baby. A mercury-in-glass thermometer could be dangerous if you place it in your baby’s mouth. Besides, they could shatter and hurt your baby, with the glass or the mercury, which is highly poisonous.
Other options include the strip-type thermometers, that are very simple to use (you just have to hold them on your baby’s forehead) but are not accurate; or ear thermometers, that are accurate and quick but quite expensive! So, the best option here is clearly a digital thermometer.
The best part where to measure baby temperature is his armpit. You can also measure it by placing the thermometer in your baby’s mouth or rectum, but this is more intrusive and likely to bother your little one. Besides, he could start wiggling and make the task more difficult. In the armpit, however, it’s easy to do without making him feel uncomfortable. Just hold your baby carefully on your knees, place the thermometer under his armpit and hold his arm against his body, gently but with firmness. Wait a few minutes (depending on what your thermometer’s instructions say) – and that’s it! The thermometer will display the baby temperature.
What do I do if the baby temperature is too high?
If your baby has a mild fever, make sure he drinks plenty of water or breast milk so he doesn’t dehydrate. You can also put a wet cold cloth on his forehead to help lower the temperature. Keep an eye on your little one and monitor his temperature often, and see what happens.
You should immediately contact your GP or health visitor; or go to the emergency room if they’re out of hours in the following cases:
- If your baby shows other symptoms besides the fever.
- If the baby temperature is 38ºC (if your baby is not yet 3 months old) or 39 (if he’s 3 months old or older).
Nonetheless, try to keep calm: babies get sick quite a lot! Correctly measuring baby temperature will proof very useful to detect illnesses or infections early, so keep your thermometer at hand!