Using a thermometer to monitor your temperature can help you manage an illness. A rise in your temperature is usually caused by an illness, infection or injury.
Normal body temperature
Normal body temperature is about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (or 37 degrees Celsius). Your temperature often varies from 1 to 2 degrees Fahrenheit (.5 to 1 degrees Celsius) throughout the day. Your temperature is usually low in the morning and gradually increases during the day, reaching its high in the late afternoon or evening.
Types of thermometers
An oral thermometer has a long, slender bulb at one end, containing mercury. Oral thermometers are usually used in the mouth, but also can be placed under the armpit. A rectal thermometer has a shorter bulb of mercury at one end and is used in the rectum, usually in children. As the mercury in the thermometer expands in response to your body heat, it moves up the column to display your temperature.
Electronic and temperature strip thermometers are also available, but may be less accurate.
When purchasing a thermometer, choose one with a column that is easy to see and with degree markings that are easy to read.
How to take your temperature
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water.
- Wash the thermometer in cold water.
- Make sure the top of the mercury column is down near the bulb.
- Hold the thermometer firmly at the end away from the mercury bulb and shake it with a downward flick of your wrist. This drives the mercury level down below the normal mark.
- Insert the bulb end of the oral thermometer under your tongue and close your mouth.
- Wait one minute and remove the thermometer. To read the temperature, hold the thermometer near the light and rotate it slowly until you see the silver column of mercury. The number on the thermometer at the top of the mercury column is your temperature.
- Rinse the thermometer in cold water and clean it with alcohol before storing it.
When to call your health care provider
Call your health care provider if you have a temperature of 101 degrees fahrenheit or higher. This could be a sign of infection and should be treated right away.
If you have a fever and any of these other signs, call your health care provider right away:
- Severe headache
- Stiff neck
- Severe swelling of your throat
- Mental confusion
For More Information
If you have any questions or concerns, please call us at 216.444.8282. We will be happy to answer your questions.