Skip to main content
Go to homepage

Print Page

How to Take a Rectal Temperature

How Do I Take a Rectal Temperature?

The best way to take a temperature in infants and young children is by taking a rectal temperature. Don't worry — it's a simple and safe process.


  • If your baby has had a bath or has been under blankets or in multiple layers (or swaddled, if an infant), wait about 20–30 minutes to take the temperature. 
  • Use a digital thermometer. Don’t use a glass thermometer, as these aren’t safe.
  • Wash the end of the thermometer with soap and water and rinse with water.
  • Moisten the tip of the thermometer with a lubricant, such as petroleum jelly.

Then, place your child:

  • belly-down across your lap or on a firm, flat surface and keep your palm along the lower back
  • face-up with legs bent toward the chest with your hand against the back of the thighs

With your other hand:

  • Insert the lubricated thermometer into the anal opening about ½ inch to 1 inch (about 1.25 to 2.5 centimeters), or until the tip of the thermometer is fully in the rectum. Stop if you feel any resistance.
  • Steady the thermometer between your second and third fingers as you cup your hand against your child's bottom. Soothe your child and speak quietly as you hold the thermometer in place.

  • Wait until you hear the right number of beeps or other signal that the temperature is ready to be read. Write down the number on the screen, noting the time of day that you took the reading.
  • A reading of 100.4°F (38°C) or above means your child has a fever.
  • Wash the thermometer with soap and water and label it for rectal use so it won’t be used to take oral temperatures.
  • Taking Your Child’s Temperature

    Taking Your Child’s Temperature

    Your child feels warm, but is it a fever? Now, more than never, it’s important to know. Here's how to use a thermometer to get an accurate reading at every age.

Reviewed by: Melanie L. Pitone, MD
Date Reviewed: Nov 20, 2022

Lea este articulo en Español

What next?

By using this site, you consent to our use of cookies. To learn more, read our privacy policy.

Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
There are 10 nurses in the picture.

And we have many more pediatric primary care providers in Northeast Ohio. You can meet some of them here.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The five differences are:
– Phone color
– Coat pocket
– Stethoscope earpiece color
– Stethoscope bell dot
– Clipboard paper color

Need help finding a doctor, choosing a location or getting a general question about Akron Children's answered? Call us or fill out the form and we'll help in any way we can.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The two matching doctors are 9 and 14.

With virtual visits, you can see our pediatric experts from the comfort of home or wherever you are.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The correct path:
The Correct Path
We offer many ways to get pediatric care all over Northeast Ohio. Use this page to find the right kind of care and the most convenient location for you.