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Fever in newborns can be serious, so it's important to know how to take your baby's temperature.
Narrator: Fever is more serious in babies under 3 months old. You'll want to know how to take your baby's temperature accurately, and when to call the doctor.
Midwife Miriam Maldonado shows new parents how to take a newborn baby's temperature.
Midwife Miriam Maldonado: When your baby's not feeling well, there's different ways of taking your baby's temperature.
Narrator: You can find these thermometers at most drugstores or buy them online. However, some thermometers – and ways of taking your baby's temperature – are more accurate than others.
Whichever method you use, don't take your baby's temperature right after a bath or while he's swaddled, since that can make him temporarily warmer.
You'll get the most accurate results by taking a rectal temperature, so your baby's doctor may ask you to use this method.
First, wash or sanitize your hands, and clean the thermometer with rubbing alcohol. You can use a special rectal thermometer or a regular digital thermometer that you designate for this purpose. Make sure you can tell it apart from your other regular thermometers.
You only need to insert the thermometer about half an inch to an inch. If done correctly, this shouldn't be uncomfortable for your baby. Special rectal thermometers are designed so the tip can't go in too far.
Using some petroleum jelly, lubricate the end of the thermometer. Lay your baby on a safe surface and hold his legs while you spread his buttocks apart. Insert the tip of the thermometer and hold it in place until you hear a beep. If you feel any resistance, stop. Don't push the thermometer in. You baby might poop when you remove the thermometer, so be prepared. Clean the thermometer before putting it away.
Remember that a rectal temperature is most accurate. The other methods we're about to show can underestimate or overestimate your baby's true temperature.
The second most accurate option is a temporal artery thermometer. These are more expensive than regular thermometers, but they're easy to use. The thermometer reads the temperature of the blood in the temporal artery in the forehead by taking an infrared scan. Turn the thermometer on and move it to the side of the forehead and back to get a reading.
Your next best option is to take your baby's axillary temperature – that's under his arm. You can use a regular digital thermometer or a "speed read" model for faster results. Make sure the thermometer is in contact with your baby's skin, not his clothes. Turn on the thermometer, place it under your baby's arm, and hold it in place until you hear a beep. Studies recommend putting the thermometer under the left arm. If your baby is restless, try taking his temperature while you hold him.
A very convenient but less accurate option is the forehead infrared thermometer. It reads the temperature on your baby's skin in a few seconds. Hold it half an inch from your newborn's forehead and press the button. You will get a reading immediately.
Last, a pacifier thermometer can give you a rough idea of whether your baby has a fever. The pacifier must remain in your baby's mouth until it beeps.
You should not use an ear or tympanic thermometer because it won't work well in a newborn's narrow ear canal.
Putting a regular thermometer in your newborn's mouth also won't work well. That method is for older children.
If you have an old-fashioned mercury thermometer, don't use it. These have been phased out due to mercury risks.
You should call your baby's doctor right away if your baby is less than 3 months old and has a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
With an accurate temperature reading from you, your doctor will be able to tell you the next steps to help your baby feel better.