Skip to main content

How do I take someone's temperature?

You can take someone's temperature quickly and easily using a thermometer.

Make sure the thermometer is clean and you read the manufacturer's instructions first.


If you're taking a child's temperature, make sure they're not:

  • warm from a bath
  • wrapped up tightly in a blanket
  • in a very warm room
  • wearing a lot of clothes
  • very active
  • cuddling a hot water bottle

Stay with them during the reading and put the thermometer away in a safe place afterwards.

Find out how to take a child's temperature

Choosing a thermometer

You can buy a thermometer from your local pharmacy.

Different types are available.

Digital thermometers are an accurate and easy way to take a temperature from the armpit or mouth.

For children under 5, take their temperature from under their armpit.

Ear thermometers are quick and easy to use, but can be expensive. The reading may not be accurate if the thermometer is not correctly placed in the ear.

Strip-type thermometers are not an accurate way of taking a temperature. They show the temperature of the skin, not the body.

Mercury-in-glass thermometers are no longer sold and should not be used. They can break, releasing small shards of glass and highly poisonous mercury.

What's a high temperature?

A high temperature (fever) is generally considered to be 38C or over.

If someone has a fever and you need advice, you can:

Further information

Page last reviewed: 8 July 2019
Next review due: 8 July 2022