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Pediatrician Lisa Asta: Hi, Adriana. Hi, Giscele. How are you today? Are you ready to come back?
Child: Ree rawr.
Mother: Giscele, my 4-year-old daughter, she's our middle and she is very rambunctious and very strong-willed.
Narrator: Adriana and Giscele are visiting pediatrician Lisa Asta to get some tips on the best ways to take the temperature of kids age 4 and up, including those who might not like sitting still with a thermometer in their mouth.
Doctor: I hear a lot from parents that they won't keep it in their mouth or they wiggle too much to put it under the arm. It's like brushing teeth and drinking your milk. These are health-promoting activities that parents should work with their children in a persuasive, friendly, calm way so that parents can take good care of their child.
Narrator: Doctors depend on accurate temperature readings in order to make medical decisions.
Here are your main options for taking your child's temperature.
A good method for kids age 4 and up is an oral reading. It will only work properly if your child can keep the thermometer under her tongue and her lips closed.
Other options include taking the temperature in the armpit, also called an axillary or underarm reading; on the forehead, with a temporal artery thermometer; or in the ear, with a tympanic thermometer.
You can still take your child's temperature rectally, which yields the most accurate reading, but at this age, she's likely to resist.
To take an oral or underarm temperature, use a digital thermometer. These can be found at the drugstore for under $10 and typically can be used in the mouth, armpit, or rectum.
Dr. Asta will show Adriana how to take an oral reading first.
For the most accurate results, wait until about 30 minutes after your child last ate or drank.
Clean the thermometer with rubbing alcohol or by washing it in warm soapy water and rinsing it with cool water.
Turn it on and place the bulb under your child's tongue, beside her back molars. Make sure she closes her lips around it – that means breathing through the nose and no talking. Hold it in place for about one minute, or until it beeps.
Doctor: All righty, and then we can read what your temperature is today. Isn't that exciting?
If a child feels yucky or doesn't want to cooperate, you can pretend that you're going to the moon and do a countdown. You can pretend that you're a fabulous scientist and you have to get just the exact number. I think approaching it this way with a child in a confident and supportive way is the best way to get cooperation and to make it a pleasant experience for both of you.
It's like when the cupcakes go off in the kitchen. Absolutely positively fine. Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous. Oh, and it's ready. Open the mouth.
Narrator: To keep your child occupied while you're waiting for the thermometer to beep, you can also try reading a book together, watching TV, or cuddling.
The next option Dr. Asta demonstrates is the armpit method. Although underarm temperatures aren't as accurate as oral ones, they're a convenient option for some kids.
Have your child undress from the waist up and make sure her armpit is dry. Clean the thermometer, turn it on, and position your child on your lap or next to you.
Doctor: And, we're going to put this underneath your arm, okay? And then we're going to hold your arm either at your side or against your chest and you're in a really good position because we want skin to skin on the thermometer monitor.
And this one we could even sing. You could sing your "Itsy Bitsy Spider" song, or we could talk about our day while we wait for this thermometer to give us its number. It's gonna beep, right? Did you hear it beep yet?
Are you listening? You tell me when you hear it beep, okay? Pretty soon, pretty soon. Did you hear it beep yet?
Child: I heard it.
Doctor: You heard it? Okay. You know what, there's your numbers. What did we get this time?
Child: Uh, 45.
Doctor: Oh, I think we got, 97.6. That's good.
Narrator: If you want to take your child's temperature some other way, you'll need to buy a special thermometer.
A forehead reading requires a temporal artery thermometer, or forehead thermometer. These are more expensive than regular digital thermometers but very easy to use, quick, and relatively accurate.
An ear reading requires a tympanic thermometer, or digital ear thermometer, which is also more expensive. It works quickly and won't cause your child discomfort, but it can be tricky to use. If you don't position it correctly in the ear canal, you won't get an accurate reading. The shape of your child's ear canal and the presence of earwax can affect the results too.
Now you know your options. If you can keep your child calm and entertained while she waits for the beep, the process will go more smoothly for both of you.