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Axillary (Underarm) Temperature

An axillary temperature is taken by holding the thermometer under your baby's arm. To give a correct reading, this must be done with care. Axillary temperatures are a good screening but may be inaccurate at times. Use the steps on this handout as a guide.

Closeup of adult raising baby's arm to place digital thermometer in armpit.

Woman holding digital thermometer in baby's armpit.

Digital thermometer.

Getting the thermometer ready

  • Be sure to use a thermometer that is for underarm use.

  • Clean the thermometer before and after each use.

  • Be sure the thermometer is at room temperature.

  • Remove the cover from the thermometer.

Positioning your baby

  • Hold your baby on your lap. Or lay your infant on his or her back on a firm surface.

  • Grasp your baby's elbow. Gently but firmly, lift the arm away from baby's side.

  • Place the tip of the thermometer in the fold of the armpit. To get a true reading, make sure the thermometer is against your baby's skin on all sides.

  • Bring the arm down next to baby's side.

Taking the temperature

Follow the instructions for using your digital thermometer.

  • Keep your baby's arm against his or her side. This keeps the thermometer in place.

  • When the thermometer beeps, release your hold and gently lift your baby's arm. Remove the thermometer.

  • Read the temperature on the digital display. Normal temperature is around 98.6°F (37°C), but it can range from 97.6°F to 99.6°F (36.4°C to 37.6°C). Axillary temperatures can range from 0.5°F to 1°F (0.3°C to 0.6°C) lower than a rectal temperature.

  • Before putting the thermometer away, clean it with soap and warm water or alcohol.

  • When reporting the temperature to your baby's healthcare provider, make sure you tell him or her that it was an axillary temperature reading.

Online Medical Reviewer: Donna Freeborn PhD CNM FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: Heather Trevino
Online Medical Reviewer: Liora C Adler MD
Date Last Reviewed: 10/1/2019
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