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Taking Your Baby's Temperature

Learn about the different types of thermometers, and get tips for seeing whether your little one has a fever.

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-Welcome to Parents TV On Demand, a place for parents to learn, share and develop a healthy family together. Parents TV. Our families, our lives. -Hi, everyone. I'm Juli Auclair. You're watching the first year on Parents TV. Taking your baby's temperature is a good way to know if your little one is sick, but it can also be stressful for parents who don't necessarily feel comfortable viewing it. Well, today, we're gonna help you through it. We're talking about the types of that Moms that's available and the best techniques for taking your baby's temperature. And joining me now is Dr. Darshak Sanghavi, assistant professor of Pediatrics at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and author of A Map of the Child of Pediatrician's Tour of the Body. Doctor, thank so much for coming in. -It's a pleasure to be here. -Let's first talk about fevers. How concerned do you need to be if the baby has one? -I think that you do need to be quite concern when your baby has a fever. The reason is, the baby is really don't have the way of telling you when they're sick other than just by having a fever. And it could be the sign of a serious Infection that needs treatment. -Okay. So, what temperature is considered a fever? I know it differs by what age they are. -That's right. It's important to remember that baby's temperatures are the same as adults. Normally it's about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. It's important to remember that number. Now, babies have fevers or are consider to have fever when their temperature is 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, and that's true for babies that are between 0 and 3 months of age. Once babies are over 3 months of age, what we consider a fever is a little bit higher. It's about 102.5 degrees, and that's what we consider fever at that point. -When do you worry? When do you need to call your pediatrician and say, my baby has a fever? What do you need to take your child to the emergency room? -I think it's very important to know that all babies, when they're less than three months of age, you should always call your doctor when they have a fever, because it can indicate a series infection and particularly a bacterial infection that needs treatment right away. So, you should never give your baby any kind of medicine before talking to the doctor if there are some fever. -I know there are numbers of different ways to take baby's temperature. There's the thermometer that you use in the ear or all over the forehead. But, what's the best way? Is it rectally? -Well, there's a lot of ways. You can use your lips to touch your baby's forehead. -Not very accurate. -As you said, yeah-- You try under the underarms, you can try in their armpits-- it's very, very hard to take baby's temperatures accurately. Study show that there is only one way, which is truly, truly reliable and that's taking the temperature in your baby's bottom using a thermometer. Now, I have one here. What we really like to use is digital thermometers because there's no confusion about what the temperature is. In the old days, when I was a kid, I remember having a mercury thermometer, which first of all could break and expose the child to mercury. And those are no longer on the market. -Right. -We really do recommend that all parents use digital thermometers now. -And if you have a mercury thermometer at home, throw it away. -I think you should get rid of it. -Right. -Yeah, it's so much easier to use a digital thermometer these days. -Now, I think that parents are concerned about actually hurting their child. They know rectally is the best way. But how far do you insert it? How do you know if you're making your baby uncomfortable? -Well, I think you should use your common sense. The easy thing to do is just lubricate the tip of the thermometer with either Vaseline or some kind of jelly prior to inserting it. And you just wanna get it far enough in so that the part that takes the temperature-- usually there's a little metal tip is just inside the rectum. And then you'll see that the temperature will start to increase, and then the thermometer start to beep when it's taking an accurate temperature. -And you wanna use the digital thermometer that has the sort of flexible tip to it. -Yes, yes. Flexible or even rigid tips are okay as long as you're careful about it and get it just inside the rough. -Okay. We don't need to put it too far and-- I know that some doctors say that you shouldn't give your baby medicine if they have a fever, there are some fevers are actually good to help fight infection, but how do you know when you should give something? -I think that the importance of fever is that, it could indicate a more serious infection something that's more dangerous and needs treatment. And that's why, just making a fever go away, say by giving Tylenol or Motrin may just mask the symptoms of the serious infection, and so your baby could get very, very sick and nobody could know about it. That's probably the most important reason you should treat the fever with medicine without talking to your doctor first. -What's too young to give medication to an infant? -I don't think that the medicines themselves are dangerous. So, Tylenol for example is safe for babies. Motrin is probably safe for even the youngest babies to keep their fever down. However, it's important to make sure that they get the proper test first. Usually, in babies less than 3 months with fever, that means a blood test, a urine test and actually although most parents don't realize this even a spinal tap to make sure that none of those site have a serious infection. Once those tests have been done and you know that the fever is not due to something dangerous. That it's okay to go ahead and treat it with either Tylenol, Motrin or something else to lower the fever. -We're talking about infection and what to do when your baby has the fever? But how do we prevent the infection in the first place? -Well, there's a lot of things you can do to prevent infection. The most important thing is just use proper hygiene. So, obviously, hand-washing around babies, but it turns out that most of these very dangerous infections are due to bacteria that actually can be acquired even before birth. And that's why mother's who get pre-natal care often screened for some of these infections. The most important test that many women have is a swab around their birth canal for an infection called GBS, and women should make sure that they've spoken to the obstetrician about that. The other key infection that you wanna make sure you don't have is herpes. If you have active genital herpes, it's critical to tell your doctors about that as well. -And quickly, the difference between bacterial and viral infections. -Bacterial infections, generally, are much more dangerous to babies because they can reproduce very quickly and are very, very aggressive. Those are the things that caused serious meningitis in urine and blood infections you worry about. The goodness is that those can also be treated with antibiotics. Viral infections on the other hand are usually quite benign and those can just get better with time. -All right, Dr. Darshak Shanghavi, thank you so much for shedding some lights on fevers for us, and thank you for watching Parents TV, your source for the best information for your growing family. -Thank you for watching Parents TV. Our families, our lives.