Health and Safety Know-How

Learning the basics of taking care of a baby who’s ill before you'll actually ever need to use this information will make things easier for both you and your baby. Here's what you need to know about taking your child's temperature, using a nasal respirator and learning CPR.

Taking Your Child's Temperature

You should always take your baby's temperature if you suspect that she's ill. Temperature will vary depending on the type of thermometer you use, so be sure to tell your healthcare provider how the temperature was taken.

Types of Thermometers

  • Rectal--gives the truest reading because it measures the temperature of the body's core.
  • Oral and digital--can be used under the arm. Axillary (underarm) temperatures are usually one degree below the actual body temperature.
  • Tympanic--reads temperature in the ear.

Methods of Taking Temperature

Here are two common methods.

Under the Arm:

  • Lift your baby's arm and place the end of the mercury or a digital thermometer in the fold of the armpit. (A mercury thermometer will give the best reading if it's placed perpendicular to your child's body; a digital thermometer will give the best reading if it’s placed at an angle.)
  • Hold the thermometer in place for three to four minutes.


  • First lubricate the end of the thermometer with petroleum jelly.
  • Lay your baby on his back with a bare bottom, lift his feet and gently insert the thermometer about one inch into his rectum. The thermometer has a bulb that will keep you from inserting it too far.
  • Hold the thermometer in place for one to two minutes.
  • Remember that only a rectal thermometer is safe to insert into the rectum.
  • You can also take a rectal temperature by laying your baby over your knees. Place one hand on his back to keep him from wiggling.

Using a Nasal Aspirator

If your child is having trouble breathing due to congestion, aspiration to suction out the mucus will bring some relief.

The How-Tos:

  • Squeeze the rubber bulb of a nasal aspirator and insert the tip into your baby's nose. Slowly release and let the suction draw out the mucus.
  • After each use, clean the aspirator by drawing in soap and water and rinsing the bulb in plain water.

Learning CPR

Taking an infant CPR course is one of the most valuable things you can do for you and your baby. Check with your local hospital or with the Red Cross to locate a course near you. Call (703) 248-4222 to find your local Red Cross chapter.

A five-hour course will teach you how to do the following:

  • Clear your baby's airway if he's choking.
  • Perform artificial respiration.
  • Check your baby's pulse.
  • Give CPR compressions if his heart has stopped beating.
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