Taking A Patient's Temperature

A person's body temperature is a good indicator of how a person's body is doing physiologically. The number one reason why someone gets a fever is because of infection. This is the case 99% of the time. I have also seen patients have high temperatures because of intense alcohol withdrawal, heatstroke, and severe brain damage.  

There are a variety of ways you can take a temperature: temporal, oral, otic (ear), axillary (armpit). rectal, and core (meaning some method of measure the inner temperature of a person...we mainly do temperatures hooked into the Foley catheter measuring internal bladder temperature). The main three methods you will see for taking a temperature are oral, axillary, and temporal artery (forehead). These two forms most people have probably seen or already done. 

If someone does have a temperature, you might want to ask yourself, "Why? What are we doing as clinicians to figure this out?" Is the patient already on antibiotics? Have they had blood cultures done to figure out what type of organism could be causing this infection? 

Oral: Place the thermometer underneath the patient's tongue and have them close their mouth around it.   This is the first choice for taking a person's temperature. If they are unable to hold a thermometer for any reason, take their temperature axillary. 

Axillary: Place the tip of the thermometer in the center of the armpit and have the patient close their arm around it.  

Temporal Artery: Place the thermometer across the forehead toward the top of the ear. Keep contact with the skin until you reach the ear along the hairline.