› Take a Temperature

Take a Temperature Any Number of Ways

While this is a nursing procedure that most of the general public already knows how to do, this skill is included as part of the basic nursing procedures because there are multiple types of thermometers available now. 

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Many people say their temperature is traditionally lower than normal and consider a fever anything over 99.0 degrees.

Most physicians want to be contacted only if the reading is over 100 degrees regardless of the patient’s history. 

Further, if a patient takes Tylenol or aspirin to lower the fever, you will be dealing with an inaccurate reading for several hours.

Most hospitals will use the type shown directly below, although, obviously there will be some differences depending on the brand used.

It is usually a long metal probe with a hard plastic cover to protect the patient from cross contamination. 

Many hospitals are also switching to the Centigrade readings as opposed to the traditional Fahrenheit reading.

Oral Temperature

Take a temperature by placing the thermometer probe between the side teeth and the tongue in the buccal groove with the tongue covering the thermometer. A lot of people suck on the thermometer like a lollipop with the probe on top of the tongue which will give you an inaccurate reading.

In addition, please hold the thermometer for those who cannot. That probe is too heavy to be held merely with the lips and teeth for some people. 

Make sure the patient has not smoked or had anything to drink either hot or cold for 15-30 minutes as that will affect the reading.

Tympanic Temperature

Pull up and back on the ear for adults. For infants less than 12 months old, take the temperature by pulling down and back on the ear. In that way there is a direct line for the thermometer to read the tympanic membrane.

Older folks especially, can have a ton of wax in the ear, sometimes to the point of it adhering to the thermometer probe cover as it is being removed. This will affect the reading. So make sure there isn’t a lot of wax in the ear or use a different method to take their temperature. 

If there is a possibility of an ear infection do not use the affected ear.

Temporal Temperature

Using the temporal artery to measure the temperature of an individual is how this works. There are a few variations depending on the brand you use.

I've used both of these temporal thermometers and my favorite is the one below:

take a temperature with a temporal thermometermy well worn temporal thermometer

How to Take a Temperature Rectally

Most times, it is only babies that have a rectal temperature taken. Here is a demo of this procedure.

Taking an Axillary Temperature

Some thermometers have a way to be set for the specific area of the body tested so it can adjust the reading (even some of the inexpensive drugstore digital thermometers).

If they do, please make that adjustment. If it does not have a way, then when using an oral thermometer for an axillary temperature, add 1 degree to the reading after you take the temperature.

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Related Pages

Basic Nursing Skills