Taking a temperature
In children, normal body temperature ranges from 36 degrees C (96.8F) to 37C (98.6F). Any temperature over 37.7C (100F) is classed as a fever.
Hypothermia develops if the temperature falls below 35 degrees C (95F).
Body temperature varies according to how active your child has been and the time of day: it is lowest in the morning as there is little muscle activity during sleep, and highest in late afternoon.
When your child has a fever you should take his temperature again after 20 minutes, just in case it was only a transitory peak.
There are three main types of thermometer:
Digital thermometers are easy to use with children of all ages and are safer than mercury thermometers to use in the mouth, since they’re unbreakable. They need batteries, so keep spares.
Liquid crystal thermometers have a heat-sensitive panel on one side and panels with numbers on the other. When the sensitive side is placed on the forehead, the numbers (your child’s temperature) light up.
Liquid crystal thermometers aren’t as accurate but are safe and easy to use and give you enough of a general idea to allay anxieties.
Mercury thermometers are the most accurate means of measuring but rarely used now. Made of glass, they register the temperature when the mercury expands to the tube to the point of the scale.
BECAUSE THE GLASS CAN BREAK A MERCURY THERMOMETER SHOULD ONLY BE USED IN AN OLDER CHILD AND EVEN THEN ONLY ON THE ARMPIT.
To read a mercury thermometer, hold it between your finger and thumb and turn it until you can see the point on the scale.
Using a mercury thermometer – armpit method
1. Hold the thermometer by the top end and shake it down sharply until the mercury falls below the 35C (95F) mark.
Sit your child on your lap, facing away from you.
With the thermometer in your right hand, raise your child’s left arm so that you expose the armpit. Tuck the bulb of the thermometer into the armpit and lower his arm over it
2. Hold the arm down for two minutes (or according to manufacturer’s instructions), remove and read.
NOTE: The reading when taken in the armpit will be 0.6 degrees C (1 degree F) lower than the child’s actual temperature.
The forehead method
Use a liquid crystal strip for this method.
Carefully position the head-sensitive side on your child’s forehead – the temperature should light up on the outside of the strip.
Tips for taking your child’s temperature
* Never take your child’s temperature if he’s just stopped running about.
* Make sure there’s no break in the mercury column inside the thermometer – it will affect the reading.
* If your thermometer is cracked, throw it away immediately.
* Wash the thermometer after use with soap and cold water.
* Always store the thermometer in its own case.