Discharge Instructions: Taking an Axillary Temperature (Pediatric)

Discharge Instructions: Taking an Axillary Temperature (Pediatric)

You take an axillary temperature by holding the thermometer under your baby’s arm. Do this with care to provide a correct reading. Remember, though, that taking a child’s temperature under the arm is less accurate than taking the temperature in the rectum, especially for babies less than 3 months old. Use the steps on this sheet as a guide for taking an axillary temperature.


Get the Thermometer Ready

  • Be sure to use a thermometer that is specifically designed for underarm use.

  • Remove the cover from the thermometer.

  • Clean the thermometer before each use.

  • Be sure the thermometer is at room temperature when you use it.

Position Your Baby

  • Hold your baby on your lap or lay the baby on his or her back on a firm surface.

  • Gently lift your baby’s arm.

  • Place the tip of the thermometer in the fold of the baby’s armpit. To get a true reading, the thermometer must rest directly against baby’s skin on all sides.

  • Lower the arm back down to your baby’s side.

Take the Temperature

  • Follow the specific instructions for using your digital thermometer.

  • Keep your baby’s arm against his or her side. This keeps the thermometer in place and gives an accurate reading.

  • When the thermometer beeps, release your hold and gently lift baby’s arm.

  • Remove the thermometer. 

  • Read the temperature on the digital display. Normal axillary temperature is about 97.6°F to 99.4°F.

  • Before putting the thermometer away, clean it with soap and warm water and put the cover back on.


Make a follow-up appointment as directed by our staff.

When to Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor right away if your child has any of the following:

  • Bleeding from the area where you took the temperature

  • Fever of  100.4°F or higher (for baby younger than 3 months)

    or fever of  101.4°F or higher (for baby older than 3 months)

  • Shaking chills