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Armpit (Axillary) Temperature

An armpit (axillary) temperature is taken by holding the thermometer under your baby's arm. To give a correct reading, this must be done with care. Armpit temperatures are a good screening for a child of any age. But they're not the most accurate way to take your child's temperature. Use the steps on this handout as a guide.

Getting the thermometer ready

  • Be sure to use a thermometer that's for armpit use.

  • Clean the thermometer before and after each use.

  • Make sure the thermometer is at room temperature.

  • Remove the cover from the thermometer.

Positioning your baby

  • Hold your baby on your lap. Or lay your infant on their back on a firm surface.

  • Grasp your baby's elbow. Gently but firmly lift the arm away from baby's side.

  • Place the tip of the thermometer in the fold of the armpit. To get a true reading, make sure the thermometer is against your baby's skin on all sides.

  • Bring the arm down next to the baby's side.

    Closeup of adult raising baby's arm to place digital thermometer in armpit.

Taking the temperature

Follow the instructions for using your digital thermometer.

  • Keep your baby's arm against their side. This keeps the thermometer in place.

  • When the thermometer beeps, release your hold and gently lift your baby's arm. Remove the thermometer.

  • Read the temperature on the digital display. Normal temperature is around 98.6°F (37°C). But it can range from 97.6°F to 99.6°F (36.4°C to 37.6°C). Armpit temperatures can range from 0.5°F to 1°F (0.3°C to 0.6°C) lower than a rectal temperature.

  • Before putting the thermometer away, clean it with soap and warm water or alcohol.

  • When reporting the temperature to your baby's healthcare provider, tell them that it was an axillary temperature reading.

    Woman holding digital thermometer in baby's armpit.Digital thermometer.

Online Medical Reviewer: Amy Finke RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Heather M Trevino BSN RNC
Online Medical Reviewer: Liora C Adler MD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2022
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