Self-diagnosis in certain cases can be misdiagnosis, and one of the most common practices is pill popping to control fever. It is true that most individuals can easily recognize symptoms of fever, which are often confirmed by others or through temperature readings. Medications are effective in controlling fever, but need to be taken either only when necessary, or as part of a treatment regimen or under medical supervision. Problem is, how do you actually identify if the condition requires medication? To compound this further, most individuals are unaware that normal temperature ranges vary across age groups, and when measured through different methods.

What are the different methods of checking temperature?

You can check temperature through four different methods to measure your core temperature. You can check your temperature through the following – oral (mouth), rectal (anus), axillary (armpit), tympanic (ear) and temporal (forehead) temperature readings. However, the temperature readings will vary slightly, when measured through the four different methods. For instance, an individual’s body temperature measured orally will differ slightly when measured through other methods, as shown below.

As can be seen from the above comparison, the readings will slightly vary when taken through different methods. It is therefore important to understand if the temperature reading that you rely upon is accurate enough to determine if you need medications or if it is a mild condition that will resolve by itself in the absence of underlying conditions.

How to take temperature through the different methods?

Now that you know the difference in readings between various methods, it is time to understand how to take a measurement through these methods.


The tip of the thermometer needs to be placed in the center of the armpit, and the arm should then be drawn close to the body. Ensure that this position is maintained till you hear the distinct beep of the thermometer (typically takes a minute).


The tip of the thermometer needs to be placed under the tongue, and the mouth should then be pursed close with the tongue pressing down on the tip of the thermometer. This position is to be maintained till you hear the distinct beep of the thermometer (around one minute).

In the ear

Ensure that the ear canal is straight, by gently tugging on the ear and follow this by inserting the ear thermometer. The correct position is when you can see that the ear canal is sealed off properly. Press the button to take the reading.


The tip needs to be lightly lubricated with Vaseline. The ideal position is to get the individual lying face down. The thermometer needs to be gently inserted by about an inch, and never to be forced inside – the shiny metallic portion needs to be inside. Gently maintain this position till you hear the distinct beep of the thermometer (typically takes a minute).

Which methods of measuring temperature are suitable for different age groups?

The method of taking temperature is typically decided on the condition of the patient and the age group. For instance, for young children and newborns, the most convenient methods are to check temperature through the armpit or rectally. You can use the ear method to measure temperature of children above two years of age. The oral method can be used to measure temperature of children above 5 years – note that this is not ideal for younger children as holding the thermometer down with the tongue is going to be challenging. In the case of adults, temperature is typically taken orally, or through the ear/armpit.


Which method is considered as the most accurate, relatively?

Rectal and oral thermometers are regarded as being the most accurate among measurements, while the other methods of measuring are convenient, and help to get a broader picture of temperature. While the measurements taken through other methods are not exactly the most accurate, they can still be used effectively to determine/confirm if an individual is feverish.

Normal body temperature for various age groups with comparison of various methods of taking the temperature are tabulated below.

What needs to be done?

Your actions need to depend on the temperature readings, the age group and the overall health condition. Assuming that an individual is healthy and has the following temperatures, here is what you need to do.

Medication is not mandatory for Healthy Adults with temperature between normal and 102°F. Proper rest and adequate fluid intake will get you back on your feet quickly. A doctor is to be consulted if other symptoms are experienced.

Over The Counter medications will work for Healthy Adults with temperature above 102°F. Here, it is important to ensure that the dosage is followed strictly. If there are known conditions, then care needs to be exercised while taking medications. Consult a doctor if the OTC medicines do not deliver desired results.



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