Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Using a Thermometer: Tips and Tricks

When your child complains of feeling unwell, your first instinct is to put your hand against his forehead to check his temperature. And when it feels quite hot, off you go to get a thermometer. This is a very sensible move compared to panicking and going to a doctor immediately since fever can be easily remedied at home. However, are you sure that you are using the thermometer correctly? Because if you aren't, you may botch up the reading and dismiss your child's complaint as a simple fever even if it isn't. Below are tips and tricks to help you fine-tune your thermometer skills:

1. Know your options.

While the mercury thermometer was the thermometer of choice years back, there are a lot of thermometers available today that you can use. There are even specialized thermometers that can be used in the rectum, mouth, and armpits respectively. Regular digital thermometers use electronic heat sensors to record body temperature, often in 30 seconds or less. Digital ear thermometers, also called tympanic thermometers, are even quicker than regular digital thermometers and can measure body temperature in just a few seconds. A digital pacifier thermometer is another option for young kids. If you are unsure of the type of thermometer to get, you can always consult your family doctor.

2. Consider your child's age.

The kind of thermometer you use matters but not so much as to where you stick it. For this, you need to consider your child's age to get the most accurate reading. For newborns, use a regular digital thermometer to take rectal temperature. Lubricate the tip of the digital thermometer with petroleum jelly then slide it an inch into your child's rectum. Do not force it in if there is any resistance. For toddlers aged four and below, it is best to use an ear thermometer. As your child grows older and more in control of his muscles, he can gradually move into using digital thermometers stuck under his tongue or in his armpits. If you have a number of kids in different ages, keeping a variety of thermometers at hand is advised.

3. Think of your priorities.

Regardless of the age of the child or person it is used for, a rectal thermometer gives the most accurate temperature reading. Whatever the method, make sure you know exactly how to use your thermometer. Read the instructions that came with your thermometer. After each use, clean the thermometer with rubbing alcohol or soap and lukewarm water. For safety and to make sure the thermometer stays in place, never leave your child unattended while you're taking his or her temperature.

4. Wait for the beep.

Most digital thermometers are equipped with an alarm that will beep to alert you that enough time has passed for the thermometer to do its job. Removing the thermometer before it is time to do so can render the reading inaccurate or useless. In case you still use a mercury thermometer, allow at least one to three minutes before removing it. Thermometers usually come with instructions so check the package about times and alarms.

5. Know when to seek medical advice.

Fevers are not illnesses. They are often symptoms of something else. As such it is important to know when to seek medical advice. When reporting a temperature to your child's doctor, give the actual reading and state how the temperature was taken. Don't add or subtract numbers from the reading depending on where the thermometer was placed. If you want to give your child fever medication, stick to acetaminophen or whatever it is that is prescribed by the doctor.

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Kristine Anne Gonzaga is a content writer and researcher who specializes in health topics and health-related issues. She delights in finding tips and ideas on simple and practical healthcare and sharing them through her writing.

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