Rectal Thermometer

How to Use a Rectal Thermometer?

Fever is a common symptom of various illnesses. Therefore, the thermometer is one of the things that must be at every home. Most of the people use a thermometer that measures oral/armpit body temperature. But a rectal thermometer is more accurate than oral/armpit thermometer. During the last few years, the use of a forehead thermometer has also become widespread.

Each method of measuring body temperature has its benefits and downsides. The oral thermometer is inexpensive, easy to use. Forehead thermometer may be a bit more expensive, but is most comfortable to use and hygienic.

When to Use a Rectal Thermometer?

You have to insert a rectal thermometer into the rectum or anus to measure body temperature. Hence it is disliked by many. However, it is among the most accurate methods of all. In some conditions it is necessary to use. If a person is unconscious or resting after an oral surgery, rectal thermometer is the only option. It is also a method of choice for measuring body temperature in infants and young children.

There is one important thing to know when taking the temperature rectally. Rectal temperature would generally be a bit higher than oral temperature. It would be around 0.5 to 1° Fahrenheit higher. Another essential thing to know is that the rectal thermometer differs from an oral thermometer. The rectal thermometer has fatter bulb when compared to the oral thermometer. But there are thermometers which can be used as both oral and rectal.

How to Prepare a Rectal Thermometer Before Using?

Once you have ensured that you have a right kind of thermometer, you can start preparing to take the temperature. Usually, a rectal thermometer requires extra hygiene. It means that do not forget to clean the thermometer with a cool and soapy solution before use. Once the thermometer is clean, shake it to ensure that mercury level goes below the level of 96.8 °F.

Taking a temperature rectally

Specialists recommend that rectal thermometer must be preferably used in children below five years of age, as it is the most accurate way to get reading.

  1. Once the thermometer has been cleaned using a soapy solution, sterilize it with rubbing alcohol.
  2. For painless procedure and ease of use, do not forget to use lubricant. Usually, petroleum jelly is preferred as it does not irritate the soft tissues.
  3. If you are measuring the temperature of a child, then put the child on your lap facing downwards. This would help to keep the child stable. Put one hand on the spine. Another way is to let the child lie on the spine (face up) and bend his/her legs towards the chest.
  4. Once everything is ready, switch on the thermometer and insert it half an inch to one inch inside the anal opening. However, be careful not to insert it too deeply, and hold the thermometer in the position with two of your fingers. Most digital thermometers require one minute to take the reading, and after that, you can hear the beep sound.
  5. Remove the thermometer and check the reading.

Always remember to keep the rectal thermometer separately. It is better to label a rectal thermometer so that you don’t use it accidentally as an oral thermometer.

When to Seek Medical Attention?

In young children, recommendations are there to measure body temperature frequently. If you feel that the child’s body is warmer than usual, it is quite probable that the child has a temperature. Unlike in adults, things in children can get worse in a much smaller time. Thus below are some of the red flags to look for in a child with a fever, and if any one of them is there, it is better to seek immediate medical attention.

  1. Breathing fast or having difficulty in breathing
  2. Change in skin color from pink to bluish
  3. Child refuses to drink enough of water
  4. Persistent vomiting- as it may result in quick dehydration, which may be more dangerous than the rise in body temperature
  5. Child not interacting or not waking up
  6. Too irritated and crying non-stop
  7. Symptoms improved only to return with even higher fever or a cough

Above symptoms may be a reason to seek medical attention even in adults. Symptoms in adults are confusion, dizziness, and pain in the region of the chest.

In conclusion, fever is a frequent symptom of various diseases and infections. Most cases, there is nothing to worry. However, there is a need to measure it accurately. Rectal thermometer is more accurate than oral thermometer. Further, there is a need to keep an eye on red flags and see medical attention in a timely manner.

Published by

Dr. Aleksandar Grbovic

Dr. Aleksandar Grbovic

Hi! My name is Aleksandar Grbovic. I’m a radiology resident with five years of experience in General Medicine. As a medical writer, I have only one goal in my mind - to bridge the gap between doctors and patients point of view by breaking down complex medical topics and presenting them in lay people language. Knowing that my writing might help someone out there connect the dots is what keeps me motivated.

  1. Shruti October 24, 2018

    Awesome Article.
    Thanks for sharing such an informative article about the Rectal Thermometer.
    Keep updating us.

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