Rectal Temperature

Rectal Temperature

A rectal temperature is taken by placing a thermometer in baby’s bottom. This method provides the most accurate reading, but it should be done only when advised by your baby’s doctor. Use the steps on this handout as a guide.

Image of thermometer

Getting the Thermometer Ready

  • Be sure to use a thermometer that is for rectal use.

  • Wipe the thermometer with warm, soapy water, then wipe with clear water. Wipe dry or let the thermometer air-dry.

  • Put a bit of petroleum jelly or water-based lubricant on the tip.

Image of baby

Positioning Your Baby

Use the position that works best for you.

  • Put baby on his or her back on a firm surface. Hold baby’s ankles and lift both legs, as if changing a diaper.

  • Or place baby face down across your lap. Use one hand to part baby’s buttocks.

Image of thermometer

Taking the Temperature

Follow the directions for using your specific digital thermometer.

  • Gently slip the tip of the thermometer into the rectum (the opening where bowel movements leave baby’s body), no further than 1/4 to 1/2 inch.

  • Hold the thermometer in place until it beeps that it is ready. Slide the thermometer out. Read the temperature on the digital display.

  • Before putting the thermometer away, clean it with soap and warm water.