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How to take a temperature

The way you take someone’s temperature depends on the age of the person with the fever.


Obviously infants can’t hold a thermometer under their tiny tongues. The best way to gage an infant’s core body temperature is with a rectal thermometer. After three months of age you can use an ear thermometer, however, the reading may not be as accurate due to the infant’s squirming or buildup of earwax.


After age one, ear, rectal, or oral thermometers give an accurate reading for a child’s temperature, as long as the child sits still long enough for the thermometer to get a good reading. Like with infants, however, children (and adults) with waxy inner ears run the risk of inexact results. Even though rectal thermometers give the best core body readings, many children will not tolerate them, so in these cases ear thermometers are fine.


Oral thermometers are the best way to take the temperature of an adult, although ear thermometers can be just as effective. If using an ear thermometer be sure to clear the ear first of waxy buildup (so that you get a more accurate reading).

For All Ages

Regardless of the type of thermometer you choose, always use a digital thermometer to take a temperature. Mercury thermometers run the risk of exposing people to mercury poisoning if the thermometer should break.