We all know it. At some point or another, our little ones are going to develop a case of the sniffles, achoos and all the other icky symptoms that come with the flu, common cold or other form of bodily illness. As dismal as it may be, it is important that parents of young children, especially babies, are prepared for the day when their little one isn’t feeling up to snuff. To help with that, we’ve pulled together a slew of information to help you navigate the question of how to tell if baby has a fever without a thermometer, as well as what to do if, regrettably, they do.

How to Tell If Baby Has Fever Without Thermometer

Can I Check My Baby’s Temperature Without a Thermometer?

Actually, you can.

Believe it or not, there are several ways that you can tell whether or not your baby has a fever with reasonable conviction, without a thermometer at all. Whether you forgot to pick one up at the supermarket or forgot to include it on your registry, the point is that figuring out whether or not your baby’s temperature is elevated can prove relatively simple to do.

How to Measure a Fever Without Thermometer

How to take temperature without thermometer is a fairly simple process. First, be sure that your hands are a neutral temperature. Your hands will, in essence, be the “temperature-takers”, here.

Then, using the back of your hand, gently press it against your child’s cheek and forehead. Feel abnormally hot to the touch?

Your baby may have a fever.

Follow up with a gentle touch to the tummy or back. If your baby feels hot overall, it may be time to look for other clues.

How Do I Know If My Baby Has a Fever?

Signs of a Fever Without a Thermometer

Of course, without a thermometer, it’s easy to jump to conclusions.

You may even find yourself second guessing.

Is my baby really hot? Am I overreacting?

To put those fears to rest, there are many ways of how to tell if baby has fever without thermometer.

Coupled with hot skin, these are a few of the sure-fire signs:

  • Appearing Hot – Along with feeling hot, comes looking hot as well. Does your baby have red cheeks, puffy skin or appear to be sweating? All of this could be pointing towards a raised internal temperature. Do be careful about this, though. There are times when babies have red or rosy cheeks that aren’t directly related to having a fever. Examples include teething and intensive gross motor play.
  • Shivering- As counter-intuitive as it may seem, babies often shiver when they are suffering with a fever. This is also true for adults, and scientifically, this is perfectly normal. Nevertheless, it can, and should be, a concerning thing for parents to witness. If you notice shivering in tandem with any of the aforementioned signs, your little one is likely to be running a fever.
  • Crying- Understandably, if your baby is sick, he or she is likely going to cry…a lot. If you notice that your baby is particularly fussy when he or she is typically in a good mood, it could be a tell-tale sign that your little one is feeling under the weather. As with anything though, make sure his or her crying isn’t related to anything else, such as a mess in the nappy or an empty tummy. If you are certain that your baby is sick, try not to start adding any disruptive activities, such as sleep training, to his or her routine. Instead, you need to be holding your baby more often or comforting them more in the night. And all of this is okay! Once your baby feels better, you can always retrain your baby to return to his or her sleeping habits, if needed.
  • Normal Habits Have Changed- It’ll take a parent who knows their child well to spot these signs, so don’t expect an on-call caregiver to be able to spot these clues. If you notice your child restless when they are usually sleepy, resisting a feed when they should be hungry, or grouchy when they are usually happy, then something might be up. Pair this will any of the other aforementioned clues and it may be time to take action to bring down the fever in your baby.

How to Take a Baby’s Temperature With a Thermometer

Now that you know the clues to look for the next time you suspect that your little one is under the weather, let’s take a look at how to assess your baby the conventional, and preferable, way.

While using the back of your hand and utilising your best judgement is a plausible solution for when the right tools aren’t available, nothing beats the simplicity and accuracy of taking your baby’s temperature with a thermometer. There are many types available, and some even come as an integral part of baby healthcare kits, first aid sets and more, making them easy to get your hands on.

Thermometer Types

Before getting started, it is important to note that not all thermometers are created equal, and some may come with special instructions. While we won’t touch on every type of thermometer available today, the following are a few you might expect to see lining store shelves: the digital thermometer, digital ear thermometers and temporal artery thermometers.

Digital Thermometers

Starting with the first, the digital thermometer is generally the most common type of thermometer available. It uses electronic heat sensors to monitor your baby’s body temperature. They come in a variety of types, can be taken orally, under the armpit or in the rectum.

Be careful, though, as some digital thermometers are specially designed to be used certain ways. Some thermometers, for example, will explicitly state that they aren’t for use in the rectum, or may only be designed to use in the rectum.

As such, you’ll want to keep a close watch and be sure to purchase the thermometer that best suits your needs. Never use a thermometer in a way that wasn’t intended.

Digital Ear Thermometers

The second type of thermometer, the digital ear thermometer, is another way to take your baby’s temperature in a comfortable and effective way.

It should be noted, however, that smaller ear canals and even ear wax can alter the readings of these infrared temperature-taking devices, and as such, may not be as trustworthy as other options.

Temporal Artery Thermometers

Lastly, is the well-loved and high-tech temporal artery thermometers used by many today.

These, like the digital ear thermometer, also use infrared scanners, and measure temperature by sensing the temperature of your baby’s temporal artery located in his or her forehead.

These types of thermometers are useful for many reasons, including the fact that they are a touch-free approach, perfect for when the baby is at rest.

Taking Your Baby’s Temperature: How It’s Done

Generally speaking, rectal thermometers have been proven to be the most accurate for newborns ages 0-3 months.

From there, you can use other types of thermometers in various locations of the body, except for oral temperature readings.

Oral temperatures can be taken around the age of 4, when children can grasp the idea of holding the thermometer beneath their tongue.

While each thermometer will come with its own set of instructions, the following are the steps you’ll generally take to solicit an accurate result from a thermometer:

Rectal Thermometer

When taking a temperature through the rectum, you’ll want to ensure that your thermometer is fit for the task. Ensure that the box says that the thermometer is safe for rectal use and NEVER use a thermometer that isn’t marked for such use.

  • Lay your baby on his or her side on a taut firm surface.
  • Hold your baby still.
  • Insert the thermometer into the child’s rectum, gently, and only by a half inch.
  • Keep the thermometer in that position until you receive a reading.
  • When finished, clean the thermometer and set it aside for rectal use only. Never use the same thermometer for oral readings.

Ear Thermometer

The following are the steps for taking a temperature using a digital ear thermometer:

  • Ensure the thermometer tip is clean.
  • Gently pull back and up on the ear, making sure that the ear canal fully accessible.
  • Insert the thermometer into the ear canal.
  • Push down the button for about one second.
  • Check the temperature reading.

Note: If instructions on your digital ear thermometer suggest different steps than those listed above, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. These are general guidelines but may not apply to every digital ear thermometer device.

Forehead Thermometer

Temporal artery thermometers give forehead temperature readings. You may expect to do the following:

  • Turn on the device.
  • Align the red dots, or markings unique to your thermometer, with the centre of your child’s forehead.
  • Push the designated button to take a reading.
  • Analyse the reading.

Oral Thermometer

Oral temperatures only apply to children ages 4 and up. This method cannot be used for babies. Nevertheless, to take a temperature orally, do the following:

  • Ensure that the thermometer is clean. Never use an oral thermometer on other parts of the body, and especially not the rectum.
  • Shake the thermometer until you see the mercury inside reach below 36 degrees Celsius.
  • Have your child lift his or her tongue, and place the thermometer there.
  • Have your child close his or her mouth and wait 40 seconds.
  • Analyse the reading.


The armpit is the secondary choice for taking temperatures in infants, with the first being rectal. If you do indeed find that your baby has a fever using this method, you will want to confirm the fever by using a rectal thermometer, if one is available, as they are the most accurate, especially for newborns.

To take an underarm reading, do the following:

  • Use a clean oral thermometer.
  • Shake the thermometer until the mercury reaches below 36 degrees Celsius.
  • Lift the baby’s arm and place the thermometer there.
  • Hold the baby’s arm gently, but firmly, so that it says in place.
  • Do this until the thermometer beeps, or for up to 4 minutes to ensure the most accurate reading.

To increase the accuracy when taking your infant’s temperature, check out these tips suggested by the United Kingdom National Health Service.

Fever in Babies: When to Worry

Many medical professionals agree that not every fever warrants a trip to the hospital or doctor’s office. While this may be true, there are some signs that you’ll need to watch for to ensure that your baby isn’t in need of urgent medical care.

Sometimes, a fever can be an underlying symptom of something much more serious. Still yet, something simple (like teething) can cause a fever.

To be sure, always seek medical care if your baby is experiencing the following:

  1. Vomiting
  2. Extreme Lethargy
  3. Weakness
  4. Breathing Problems

Moreover, if your baby’s high temperature goes above 40 degrees Celsius, you’ll need to receive care immediately. Other temperatures, such as 38.5 degrees Celsius in a newborn or 38 degrees Celsius in babies over 3 months old, may solicit a scheduled visit to the paediatrician.

How to Bring Down a Fever in a Baby

Now, for the big question. How do I lower my baby’s temperature safely?

While most tend to grab for a box of medicine, it isn’t always recommended, especially in young infants. Instead, try dressing your baby in layers, and removing layers when the circumstance seems fit. For example, if your baby is shivering, you may need to put on more layers to help your baby regulate his or her temperature (see: How to dress baby warmly at night). If your baby is sweating, however, you will need to remove layers, or put baby in something breathable, comfortable and lightweight until his or her temperature comes down. Cotton is a wonderful option.

Along with adding and removing layers according to the need, you’ll also want to make sure the room your baby is in is at a comfortable temperature, with fresh air circulating throughout.

Moreover, be sure you provide your baby with plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. For younger babies, the ideal way to keep your baby hydrated would be through breast milk. For older children who may be weaned, give them cool water. Broths, soups and ice cubes are also viable additions to the aforementioned fluids.

How to tell if baby has fever without thermometer: Know When Things Are Serious

We hope we’ve given you enough information to answer the question, “how to tell if baby has fever without thermometer?”.

Although fevers in babies aren’t always serious, the truth is that they can be. In addition to elevated temperatures and flushed skin, be on the lookout for other concerning signs, such as vomiting, seizures and listlessness. If you aren’t sure if your baby’s condition is serious, would like to err on the safe side or have a gut feeling that things aren’t quite right, always contact your local healthcare provider for advice.

*Disclaimer: The following healthcare advice should not be taken as a substitute for professional medical directives. Always refer to a paediatrician for diagnosis and guidelines for care concerning your infant or toddler.