How to assess an infant's rectal temperature

Updated Oct. 11, 2018

Fever is a significant vital sign finding in any patient and especially serious in infants. The sudden onset of symptoms — fever, chills, body aches, cough, sore throat, and congestion — may trigger a parent to call for an ambulance.

If you are not a parent or have not worked in an urgent care setting, you may not be familiar with and comfortable taking an infant's rectal temperature, which will give you the most accurate core body temperature assessment.

Follow these tips to smoothly and efficiently obtain an infant rectal temperature.
Follow these tips to smoothly and efficiently obtain an infant rectal temperature. (Photo/Pixabay)

Follow these tips to assess rectal temperature in an infant.

  1. Use a specific rectal probe with the thermometer.
  2. Lubricate insertion tip of probe cover with a water-based or petroleum lubricant for patient comfort.
  3. Position infant supine, remove diaper and bring infant's knees to chest to clearly visualize the anus.
  4. Insert the probe about half an inch into the anus with your right hand. Stop if you meet resistance.
  5. Once inserted, use your left hand to stabilize the probe, if needed, and also use your left arm to keep legs positioned near the infant's chest. As needed, ask for parent or partner assistance to maintain infant positioning.
  6. Maintain probe position until thermometer indicates temperature assessed.
  7. Remove and clean probe and clean off infant's bottom with a wipe or tissue.

Finally, for male infants, cover the penis with a towel or diaper to prevent an unexpected splash to your face and uniform contamination during the procedure.

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