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'What's the Best Way to Take Your Temperature?'

By Elizabeth Hanes, BSN, RNJuly 22, 2020

I don’t know about you, but I’ve used my digital thermometer more over the past six months than over the prior six years. Any sniffle or cough, and that thing goes straight under my tongue!

These days, the slightest feelings of illness can trigger anxiety: Could this be COVID-19?? And taking your temperature is a smart way to tell if perhaps you might have COVID-19 – or another illness like influenza.

But not all temperature-taking methods and devices are created equal. Your results can vary, depending on when you measure your temperature, the type of thermometer you use, and how you perform the action of taking your temperature.

Bear in mind that “feeling warm” doesn’t necessarily mean you have a fever, and not feeling hot doesn’t mean you don’t have a fever. The only way to tell for sure if you have a fever is to measure your temperature using a thermometer. To take your temperature accurately:

  • Don’t use an oral digital thermometer immediately after eating or drinking. Wait 10 minutes to make sure the reading is accurate.
  • Make sure your ears are clean inside before using an ear (tympanic) thermometer. Ear wax buildup can cause an inaccurate temperature reading.
  • Avoid using forehead strips, as these only measure skin temperature – which isn’t an accurate measure of fever.
  • When using a forehead (temporal artery) scanner, confirm high readings with an oral or ear thermometer. Scanners are not as accurate as other methods.

A fever can make you feel miserable. In addition to taking a fever-reducing medication, you also can indulge in a cool shower or bath, apply cool compresses to your forehead or back of the neck, and generally just lounge around to feel better until the fever breaks. Of course, if your symptoms continue to worsen, or if you develop a dry cough along with your fever, then you definitely should call your healthcare provider for help.




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