How to take a rectal reading on your baby

If your little one is under 6 months old, you’ve got to be checking their temperature rectally. Yes, we know - you don’t like it, and they certainly don’t like it. However, it is the gold standard during this age range, giving you the most accurate temperature reading. (Rectal readings are actually recommended up until 4 years of age.) 

Tympanic thermometers (ones that go in the ear canal) are unreliable when used on children under 6 months of age. Axillary thermometers (ones that go under the armpit) are the least accurate way to measure body temperature, and generally, are not even suggested anymore.

If the number on your Kinsa thermometer has you wondering if you should head to the ER or stay snuggled up in bed, don’t you want to be sure? Of course you do! However, you might have no idea how to take a rectal temperature, or you’re worried about hurting them. Let us help!

Step 1   Clean the end of the thermometer using soap and water, or rubbing alcohol. Rinse the tip, not the entire thermometer, with cool water (not hot water). Wait a minute for it to reach room temperature again before using on your babe.

Step 2   Position your baby in a way they can remain secure and still throughout the temperature reading. For the younger ones, diaper changing position is the easiest. Place them on their back and lift their legs up to their chest.

For older toddlers, laying them on their stomach across your lap might be the easiest way to keep them from squirming.

Step 3   Apply a lubricant (such as petroleum jelly) to the end of the thermometer.

Step 4   Insert the thermometer into the rectum about ½ to 1 inch. Once you can no longer see the silver tip, that’s ½ inch. Don’t ever try to push past any resistance. Keep your baby’s legs and tushy secure, and wait for the beep. It should take less than 8 seconds!

Step 5   Remove the thermometer and clean it thoroughly, the same way you started. 

Step 6   Label the thermometer for ‘Rectal Use Only’ with a permanent marker.

Hopefully, by the age of 4 to 5 years old, your kiddo can hold a thermometer under their tongue for oral readings. Rectal readings should be a distant memory for them now—and for you, Mom and Dad—thank the heavens!

1 out of 1 found this helpful