“There is a current movement for the elimination of all mercury-containing medical devices, initiated by the World Health Organization,” explains Dr. Santiago. “The Philippines is the first country in Southeast Asia to take the No Mercury in Health Care pledge—which includes thermometers.” When breakage occurs and even during disposal, mercury exposure can be toxic to the organs. Digital thermometers are therefore recommended.
Aileen Puno, M.D., a US-based pediatrician and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, says your child’s age can be a helpful guide on deciding which type of thermometer to use as well as what method to take.
“For babies up to 3 months, you’ll get the most reliable reading using a digital thermometer to take a rectal temperature,” she says. “Electronic ear thermometers aren’t recommended for infants because of their tiny ear canals. For children 3 months to 4 years old, either a digital thermometer or an electronic ear thermometer may be used,” she says. “For children 4 years or older, a digital thermometer can be used to take an oral temperature—if your child is ready for it.” Children with frequent coughs or those who breathe through their mouths (due to stuffy noses) may not be able to keep their mouths closed long enough for an accurate reading. “In these cases, you may use an electronic ear thermometer or use the axillary method (under the arm) using a digital thermometer.”
Because discrepancies may occur depending on which method you use to take your child’s temperature, it will be helpful to use this as a guide:
- 100.4° Fahrenheit (38° Celsius) measured rectally (in the bottom) - 99.5° Fahrenheit (37.5° Celsius) measured orally (in the mouth) - 99° Fahrenheit (37.2° Celsius) measured in an axillary position (under the arm)
Valerie Santiago, M.D., pediatric consultant, Bernardino General Hospital, Novaliches, Quezon City; diplomate, Philippine Pediatric Society Aileen Puno, M.D., US-based pediatrician; member, American Academy of Pediatrics Websites: www.kidshealth.org ; Nelson’s Pediatrics; pedsinreview.org