First-time parents are quick to panic when their baby’s temperature rises beyond what is usual. If you are one such parent, remember that the normal body temperature for infants, although similar to that of adults, usually fluctuates several times a day.
This happens because a baby’s body is more sensitive to the rise and dip of temperature in his immediate surroundings. This means that when you take an infant into an air-conditioned room, his body temperature may also fall below the average. It also means that taking the baby out on a stroll on a hot afternoon may induce his body temperature to rise to more than normal.
Fever in Infants
Fevers are a common occurrence in both infants and very young children. Symptoms that your child has higher than the normal body temperature for infants include but are not limited to his skin feeling hot to the touch (or at least hotter than usual), clammy or sweaty skin, and flushed cheeks.
A fever in an infant is not always a bad thing. Fevers alert the parents that their child’s body is fighting an infection. If the child has been vaccinated recently, a slight chill means that the vaccine is working properly.
When you see any or a combination of these symptoms, it is best that you immediately measure your infant’s body temperature to monitor his condition.
Taking an Infant’s Body Temperature
The normal body temperature for infants may range from 37°C to 37.5°C, give or take a few points. Any higher than that may mean that the infant is suffering from a fever, and any lower means that the baby is experiencing some other form of illness.
To check your baby’s temperature, you can use a number of different thermometers. These are usually available in most supermarkets and local pharmacies.
Below are the most common types of thermometers you can use:
Digital thermometers are the safest way to measure if your baby’s temperature is higher than the normal body temperature for infants. They are also relatively easy to use.
To use a digital thermometer, hold your baby on your knee and place the thermometer under his armpit. Keep his arm in place for about fifteen seconds. Some digital thermometers emit a ping to indicate that they are done measuring your child’s temperature. You can easily check the readings in the thermometer’s display.
Mercury thermometers work in the same way as digital thermometers in that you have to keep them under the baby’s armpit. The disadvantage of using this kind of thermometer is there is a risk of the glass breaking, which may cause the mercury to seep into the skin of the infant. Because of this, most pharmacies stopped selling them and replaced them with digital thermometers instead.
Strip-type thermometers are placed on the forehead of the infant. The problem with this type of thermometer is that it reads the temperature of the skin and not of the body. Thus, your baby may actually have the normal body temperature for infants and the thermometer will still read him as feverish because his skin is hot.
It is advisable that you use just one type of thermometer to monitor your infant’s body temperature regularly. This will make your readings more consistent and accurate, compared to when you use different types during different readings.