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Fever Temperatures: Accuracy and Comparison

Nov. 07, 2020

Topic Overview


Temperature Equipment5ef19d211d8da.jpgYou can take a temperature using the mouth (oral), anus (rectal), armpit (axillary), or ear (tympanic). But the temperature readings vary depending on which one you use, and you need an accurate body temperature to determine if a fever is present.

Medical research hasn't determined an exact correlation between oral, rectal, ear, armpit, and forehead temperature measurements. Generally, the correlation of temperature results are as follows:

The average normal oral temperature is 98.6°F (37°C).

It is important to remember:

Rectal temperature is generally considered the most accurate temperature for examining young children.

Temperature comparison table

The temperature comparison table below will give you the range of temperature correlation with the different methods used to take a temperature. For information about taking accurate temperatures in infants and children, see the topic Body Temperature.

 

To use the table:


Comparison of temperatures in Fahrenheit by method

Axillary/Forehead (°F)

Oral (°F)

Rectal/Ear (°F)

98.4–99.3

99.5–99.9

100.4–101

99.4–101.1

100–101.5

101.1–102.4

101.2–102

101.6–102.4

102.5–103.5

102.1–103.1

102.5–103.5

103.6–104.6

103.2–104

103.6–104.6

104.7–105.6

Comparison of temperatures in Centigrade by method

Axillary/Forehead (°C)

Oral (°C)

Rectal/Ear (°C)

36.9–37.4

37.5–37.7

38–38.3

37.5–38.4

37.8–38.5

38.4–39.1

38.5–38.9

38.6–39.1

39.2–39.7

39–39.5

39.2–39.7

39.8–40.3

39.6–40

39.8–40.3

40.4–40.9


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this commentary represent the views of the authors and not necessarily those of the host institution, the NHS, the NIHR, or the Department of Health and Social Care. The views are not a substitute for professional medical advice.


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