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Home : Specialty Care : Newborn Intensive Care Unit : Illness and Taking Temperature

Illness and Taking Temperature

Newborn Intensive Care Unit

202 S. Park Street
Madison, WI 53715
NICU: (608) 417-6215 or
1-800-261-2229
General Information: (608) 417-6000
Location: Meriter Hospital - 7 North

How can I tell if my baby is sick?

      
Parents are the best at knowing when their baby just doesn't seem to be acting the same. Some premature infants are more susceptible to colds or respiratory infections. Babies can become dehydrated (lose of fluid and nutrients) quickly. A change in your baby's response or behavior could be a sign that your baby is sick. These include:

  • Change in your baby's breathing pattern
  • Excessive crying or irritability
  • Change in eating pattern
  • Difficult to wake up or not as active as usual
  • Coughing, not associated with feeding
  • Vomiting all or most of his/her feedings
  • Frequent liquid stools within a short period of time (6-8 hours)
  • Not as many wet diapers as usual and urine is a darker color
  • Blue or pale colored skin
  • Fever

Don't hesitate to call your pediatrician. No question is foolish or unimportant. Your doctor is there to answer all your questions.

How do I take my baby's temperature?

        
Axillary (underarm) temperatures

  • If you are using a glass thermometer, shake the mercury down by snapping the wrist sharply while holding the thermometer. Check to make sure the mercury is below 96 degrees F.
  • Place the tip of the thermometer under the arm pit making sure that it is in contact with both the skin on the arm and the skin of the chest.
  • Hold the arm down next to the side of the chest keeping the thermometer under the arm.
  • Keep in place for at least 3-4 minutes.
  • Axillary temperatures are slightly lower than rectal temperatures.

Rectal (in the bottom) temperatures

  • If using a glass thermometer, shake the mercury down by snapping the wrist sharply while holding the thermometer. Check to make sure the mercury is below 96 degrees F.
  • Place water based lubricant on silver end of thermometer.
  • Hold your baby either on his/her abdomen across your lap or place on the changing table as if you are going to change the diaper.
  • Place the tip or the silver end of the thermometer into your baby's rectum, no more than 1/2 inch.
  • Hold the thermometer in place for at least 2-3 minutes.
  • Wipe thermometer with a tissue.

Oral temperatures should not be done with babies.


It is a good practice to have already taken the temperature when you call your doctor or go to an appointment for an illness. It is always best to take the temperature rather than feel your baby's skin.

How do I know if my baby has a fever?

          
A fever is a temperature over 99 degrees Fahrenheit axillary or 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit rectally.


Your doctor should be called if:

  • Your preemie is under 2 months of age and the temperature is over 99 degrees F axillary or 100.5 degrees F rectally.
  • Your preemie has a temperature over 99 degrees F axillary or 100.5 degrees F rectally and other signs of illness.
  • Fever is present more than 3 days.
  • The temperature is less than 97 degrees F.