Can I use an infra-red ear thermometer to measure my baby's temperature?

Can I use an infra-red ear thermometer or an electric anal thermometer to measure my baby’s temperature?

Studies show that when a baby is having a high fever, it is more accurate to measure the anal temperature. Therefore, if you suspect your baby is getting ill or having fever, it is better to check the anal temperature.

It is difficult to take the anal temperature when my baby is crying non-stop. If I choose the infra-red ear thermometer, what are the points that I need to notice?

An infra-red ear thermometer uses infra-red to detect the temperature of the eardrums. It is a quick and convenient method if your baby is ill or crying vigorously. However, in order to measure an accurate body temperature, the thermometer must be placed correctly inside the ear canal.

You should

  1. Follow the user manual provided by the manufacturer
  2. Calibrate the thermometer regularly
  3. Use a new probe cover every time
  4. Pull the ear canal straight when measuring the temperature. For babies less than 1 year old, pull the ear backward; for those older than 1, pull the ear both backwards and upwards.
  5. Check the temperature after you heard the signal
  6. Use the same ear and check for 3 times, use the highest temperature if there is discrepancy
  7. Discard the probe cover after use and clean the thermometer as instructed in the user manual

As there will be differences in measuring body temperature on different sides of the ears, so if you need to monitor the body temperature, measure at the same ear each time.

What body temperature indicates a fever?

To decide if there is any fever, you need to know what is normal body temperature. Since normal body temperature varies with different periods of time in a day, activity status and the part where you measure the temperature, normal body temperature is not a fixed reading. Moreover, body temperature will be affected by age and health status. Generally speaking, normal baby’s anal temperature is around 36.6 to 38 degree Celsius. If the anal temperature is higher than 38 degree Celsius, your baby is having a fever and you should bring him to see a doctor. As the sensitivities of the ear thermometers produced by various manufacturers are different, you should study the user manual for more information.

Apart from measuring your baby’s body temperature, you also need to observe his general conditions, feeding and any other symptoms to assess if you need to take him to visit your doctor. For babies less than 2 months old, those with weakened immunity or having any other health problems, their conditions may change quickly, so you should consult your doctor as soon as possible.

If you want to know more about the management of fever and how to measure body temperature, please visit Family Health Service website at www.fhs.gov.hk.