Temperature and Fevers in Newborns

It’s important to learn how to take your baby’s temperature correctly.

Normal ranges in body temperature vary depending on the amount of activity, emotional stress, type of clothing worn and temperature of the environment. You can use either a digital or ear thermometer at any age to take your baby’s temperature. Do not use mercury glass thermometers.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use and care of whichever thermometer you choose.

When reporting fever, always tell the doctor what part of the body was used to take the temperature and the exact thermometer reading.

The axillary (armpit) method is recommended for children from birth to 4 years. Hold the thermometer snugly in the armpit making sure the bulb is completely covered between your baby’s arm and side.

The rectal method may be used in children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years.

Tips for Using a Rectal Thermometer

  • Check with your pediatrician before taking a rectal temperature.
  • Rectal temperatures are slightly higher than axillary (armpit) temperatures.
  • Moisten the end of the thermometer with a water soluble lubricant.
  • Place your baby on his stomach and across your lap. Spread the buttocks with one hand to expose the anal opening.
  • Keep your arm along baby’s back or have another person help you hold the baby so he won’t move.
  • Insert thermometer, slowly and gently, just far enough for the bulb to pass the anal sphincter (muscle). This is about 1/2 inch.
  • After temperature is taken, remove the thermometer gently in a straight line and read the results.

How to Take a Baby's Temperature

Learn how to take your baby's temperature with this step-by-step instructional video.

Treatment of Fever

Fevers in healthy babies are usually not serious.

When your baby’s temperature rises, it can be alarming. But a fever can also be helpful because it’s often the body's way of fighting infection.

Not all fevers need to be treated. However, a high fever can make your baby uncomfortable and cause problems such as dehydration.

If your baby’s face feels hot to the touch, looks red or flushed, he may have a fever.

If your baby is less than three months old and has a fever, call your pediatrician before giving acetaminophen.

Unless ordered by your pediatrician, aspirin should not be given to children. Several studies link aspirin use in children with Reye’s syndrome, a severe illness that may be fatal.