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Discharge Instructions: Taking an Axillary Temperature (Pediatric)
You take an axillary temperature by holding the thermometer under your baby’s arm for 4 to 5 minutes. Do this with care to provide a correct reading. Remember, though, that taking a child’s temperature under the arm is less accurate than taking the temperature in the rectum, especially for babies less than 3 months old.
Get the thermometer ready
Be sure to use a thermometer that is specifically designed for underarm use.
Remove the cover from the thermometer.
Clean the thermometer before each use.
Be sure the thermometer is at room temperature when you use it.
Position your baby
Hold your baby on your lap or lay the baby on his or her back on a firm surface.
Gently lift your baby’s arm.
Place the tip of the thermometer in the fold of the baby’s armpit. To get a true reading, the thermometer must rest directly against baby’s skin on all sides.
Lower the arm back down to your baby’s side.
Take the temperature
Follow the specific instructions for using your digital thermometer.
Keep your baby’s arm against his or her side for 4 to 5 minutes. This keeps the thermometer in place and gives an accurate reading.
When the thermometer beeps, remove it and read the temperature on the display.
Normal axillary temperature is about 97.6°F (36.4°C) to 99.4°F (37.4°C) An axillary temperature is usually 1 degree lower than oral or rectal temperatures. It is therefore a useful screening measurement but not the most reliable at any age.
Before putting the thermometer away, clean it with soap and warm water and put the cover back on.
Make a follow-up appointment as directed by our staff.
When to call the healthcare provider
Call your baby's healthcare provider right away if he or she has any of the following:
Bleeding from the area where you took the temperature
Fever of 100°F (37.7°C) or higher for a temperature taken under the arm (for baby younger than 3 months). Or a fever that rises to 104°F (40°C) for a child of any age.
Online Medical Reviewer:
Donna Freeborn PhD CNM FNP
Online Medical Reviewer:
Liora C Adler MD
Date Last Reviewed:
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