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Discharge Instructions: Taking an Axillary Temperature (Pediatric)

You take an axillary temperature by holding the thermometer under your baby’s arm. Do this with care to provide a correct reading. Remember, though, that taking a child’s temperature under the arm is less accurate than taking the temperature in the rectum, especially for babies less than 3 months old. Use the steps on this sheet as a guide for taking an axillary temperature.

Thermometer is placed in baby's armpit for axillary temperature.

 

Mother is holding her baby with thermometer in the baby's armpit.

Axillary temperature is showing on a digital display.

Get the Thermometer Ready

  • Be sure to use a thermometer that is specifically designed for underarm use.

  • Remove the cover from the thermometer.

  • Clean the thermometer before each use.

  • Be sure the thermometer is at room temperature when you use it.

Position Your Baby

  • Hold your baby on your lap or lay the baby on his or her back on a firm surface.

  • Gently lift your baby’s arm.

  • Place the tip of the thermometer in the fold of the baby’s armpit. To get a true reading, the thermometer must rest directly against baby’s skin on all sides.

  • Lower the arm back down to your baby’s side.

Take the Temperature

  • Follow the specific instructions for using your digital thermometer.

  • Keep your baby’s arm against his or her side. This keeps the thermometer in place and gives an accurate reading.

  • When the thermometer beeps, release your hold and gently lift baby’s arm.

  • Remove the thermometer. 

  • Read the temperature on the digital display. Normal axillary temperature is about 97.6°F (36.4°C) to 99.4°F (37.4°C)

  • Before putting the thermometer away, clean it with soap and warm water and put the cover back on.

Follow-Up

Make a follow-up appointment as directed by our staff.

When to Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor right away if your child has any of the following:

  • Bleeding from the area where you took the temperature

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher (for baby younger than 3 months) or fever that rises to 104°F (40°C) for a child of any age. 

 

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