Humans are capable of maintaining their body temperature through thermoregulation, which is the human body’s natural mechanism for balancing body heat. Thermoregulation involves the process of cooling off through perspiration, which is the production of sweat to lessen body heat, and the process of elevating temperature by shivering and increasing metabolic activities to produce more heat.
Adult humans can maintain their normal body temperature efficiently, but it is different with babies and small children. Babies, when they are born, start off with an underdeveloped thermoregulation mechanism, so they rely solely on their caregivers in balancing their body temperature. Babies depend on their mothers’ thermoregulation during pregnancy. The maternal body temperature influences babies’ temperature and the amniotic fluid that surrounds them in the amniotic sac helps regulate the heat inside the womb. On average, the temperature maintained inside the maternal body is around 37.7°C (99.86°F).
After babies are born, their bodies are still not capable of regulating their body temperature. They can sweat when the environment is getting warmer, but they cannot shiver when it gets colder. To increase their temperature, babies may move or curl up to keep warm. Their small bodies lack adequate amounts of body fat to keep them warm, but they do rely on their special body fat called the Brown Adipose Tissue (BAT) to produce heat inside their bodies. In order to produce heat, BAT consumes the babies’ glucose and oxygen, and prolonged exposure to the cold will cause physical stress on babies as their BAT continues to work to keep them warm. That is why it is very important to keep newborn babies wrapped in warm clothing during days of cold weather.
To ensure that your baby’s temperature is kept to a healthy and normal level, you should monitor your baby’s body temperature regularly. To monitor your baby’s temperature, you will need the aid of thermometers. The best type of thermometer recommended for use with babies is the digital thermometer. Whether you suspect that your baby may have a fever or is feeling cold, it is best to take your newborn baby’s temperature every day until he has grown and gained enough body fat.
To take your baby’s temperature using the digital thermometer, follow these steps:
- Position your baby on your lap or just lay him down on the bed.
- Place the thermometer’s tip under the armpit.
- Turn the thermometer on; it will automatically measure and read your baby’s temperature.
- Hold your baby’s arm against his body to keep the thermometer in place. Usually, a digital thermometer will produce a beeping sound when the reading is done. If your thermometer is not equipped with this feature, keep it in place for some time as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
- The final reading of the temperature taken will be displayed on the thermometer’s digital screen.
The normal body temperature for babies should be between 36°C and 37°C (between 96.8°F and 98.6°F). You can also use other types of thermometers, but never use glass thermometers that contain mercury. Other safe thermometers to use are tympanic (ear) thermometers and adhesive strip-type thermometers.
When taking your baby’s temperature, you must also consider factors that may alter or affect the accuracy of the thermometer’s reading. Be sure to let your baby cool down first for a while if:
- He was wrapped tightly in a blanket.
- He had been staying in a warm room.
- He was very active.
- He was cuddling a warm bottle.
- He had just taken a bath.