Why Are Rectal Temperatures Recommended to Check if Your Child Has a Fever?

mother looking at thermometer and her child with fever

Reviewed by Dr Welras Long, M.B.B.S (Singapore)

Rectal temperature measurement is often recommended by healthcare professionals when it comes to assessing a child’s body temperature. While there are various methods available, understanding why rectal temperatures are preferred for detecting fever in children is essential. In this article, we explore the advantages of rectal temperature measurements and why they play a crucial role in monitoring children’s health.

The Significance of Accurate Temperature Measurement

Precision in Fever Detection

Accurate temperature measurement is crucial in identifying fever, a common indicator of illness in children. Fever is the body’s natural response to infections or other medical conditions, and monitoring it helps in assessing the severity of the illness.

Choosing the Right Method

Several methods are available for measuring body temperature, including oral, axillary (underarm), tympanic (ear), and temporal artery thermometers. However, for the most accurate reading, especially in infants and young children, healthcare providers often recommend rectal temperature measurements.

Advantages of Rectal Temperature Measurements

Proximity to Core Body Temperature

The rectum is in close proximity to the body’s core, where internal organs are located. As a result, the temperature measured in the rectum provides a more accurate reflection of the body’s core temperature compared to other methods.

Consistency and Reliability

Rectal temperatures tend to be more consistent and reliable, offering healthcare providers a stable baseline for monitoring fever progression or resolution. This is particularly crucial when assessing the effectiveness of interventions or medications.

Suitable for Infants and Young Children

In infants and young children, cooperation during temperature measurement can be challenging. Rectal measurements, although slightly more invasive, are quick and often cause minimal discomfort, making them more feasible for this age group.

Safe and Correct Procedure for Rectal Temperature Measurement

Choose the Right Thermometer

Select a digital rectal thermometer designed for infants and children. These thermometers are safe, easy to use, and equipped with features like flexible tips to ensure comfort.


Lay your child on their back, lifting their legs gently toward their chest. Insert the thermometer about half an inch to an inch into the rectum, holding it in place until the reading is complete.

Hygiene Matters

Ensure the thermometer is clean and disinfected before and after each use. Proper hygiene prevents the risk of infection.

Addressing Common Concerns and Misconceptions

Fear of Discomfort

While parents may worry about causing discomfort, rectal temperature measurements are generally well-tolerated by children. Using a lubricant on the thermometer tip can enhance comfort.

Accuracy Concerns

Rectal measurements are considered the gold standard for accuracy in young children. They provide a reliable reflection of core body temperature, crucial for prompt and effective medical decisions.

When to Choose Alternatives and Seek Medical Attention

Alternative Methods

While rectal measurements are highly accurate, alternative methods such as tympanic or temporal artery thermometers can be used for quick screening. However, for definitive readings, especially in young children, rectal measurements are preferred.

Medical Attention

If your child is consistently running a fever or showing signs of distress, seek prompt medical attention. Persistent fever may indicate an underlying infection or other health concerns that require professional evaluation.

Your Child’s Health Matters – Act Promptly!

For comprehensive pediatric care and guidance on your child’s health, consult the experienced medical professionals at Keystone Clinic & Surgery. Prioritizing accurate temperature measurements allows for timely intervention, ensuring your child receives the best possible care.


Healthychildren.org. 2023. Fever Without Fear: Information for Parents. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/fever/Pages/Fever-Without-Fear.aspx#:~:text=Although%20not%20every%20fever%20needs,mouth%2C%20and%20fewer%20wet%20diapers

Cleveland Clinic. 2022. Fever in Babies and Children: When to Worry. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/kids-fevers-when-to-worry-when-to-relax

Mayo Clinic. 2023. Thermometers: Understand the Options. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fever/in-depth/thermometers/art-20046737#:~:text=Most%20electronic%20thermometers%20have%20a,are%20usually%20the%20least%20accurate

Kidshealth.org. 2022. How to Take a Rectal Temperature. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/rectal-temperature.html

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