Skip to site alertSkip to content

How to take a rectal temperature

How to take a rectal temperature

Taking a baby's rectal temperature.

A rectal thermometer is the most accurate way to take a temperature.

To take a rectal temperature:

  1. Apply a lubricant jelly or petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, on the bulb of the thermometer so that you can insert it easily.
  2. Choose a quiet place so that the child won't be distracted or move around too much. If you are measuring the temperature of a baby or small child, you can:
    • Place the child faceup with legs bent toward the chest with your hand on the back of the thighs or holding the feet as if you were changing a diaper.
    • Place the child facedown on your lap or on a flat covered or padded surface, such as a bed.
  3. Gently insert the bulb end of the rectal thermometer about 0.6 in. (1.5 cm) to 1 in. (2.5 cm) into the anal canal. Don't force it into the rectum. Hold the thermometer in place with two fingers close to the anal opening (not near the end of the thermometer).
  4. Leave the thermometer in place for the required amount of time, usually a minute. Time yourself with a watch or clock. Some digital thermometers give a series of short beeps when the reading is done.
  5. Remove the thermometer and read it.
  6. Clean a digital thermometer with cool, soapy water, and rinse it off before putting it away. After a thermometer has been used to take a rectal temperature, do not use it to take an oral temperature.

Current as of: August 6, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.