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Taking a Temperature

Fever & Illness Care for Newborns

Illness in a child at any age can be worrisome to parents, but particularly in a newborn.

Because newborns have a developing immune system, some illnesses can become serious very quickly, which is why it is important to know the signs of illness in a newborn and get prompt medical care if you are noticing the following:

Digital Thermometer

  • Rectal temperature of 100.4°F or higher in newborns to 2 months of age
  • Rectal temperature of 97°F or lower in newborns to 2 months of age
  • Vomiting (not just spit up)
  • Diarrhea
  • Refusing several feedings in a row
  • Lethargic
  • Inconsolably crying
  • Purple spots present on the skin
  • Difficulty breathing

How to Take Your Newborn’s Temperature

Please take your newborn’s temperature before calling us. Telling us your baby “feels warm” is too vague. Tapes which are applied to the forehead, and pacifiers which change color are totally inaccurate and should never be used. Temperatures taken under the arm are also unreliable in newborns. Rectal temperature is the most accurate measure of a true temperature, so it is the recommended method in newborns and infants. Please do not add to or subtract from the thermometer reading. We recommend the use of a digital thermometer such as the Becton Dickinson digital thermometer which can be used rectally.

Taking a Rectal Temperature

Taking Rectal Temperatures

  • Place your baby either on his back with legs pulled up as if changing a diaper or laying stomach-down on your lap.
  • Carefully insert the thermometer about 1 inch, but never force it.
  • Hold your child still while the thermometer is in the rectum.
  • Leave the thermometer inside the rectum for 2 minutes or until a digital thermometer beeps.
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