With any luck, you already have a thermometer because lately they have been as difficult to buy as toilet paper. But getting a second thermometer is best if someone in your household has symptoms of covid-19, says Michael Hochman, an internal medicine physician and director of the Gehr Family Center for Health Systems Science & Innovation at Keck Medicine at the University of Southern California.
If you’re in the market, an inexpensive and easy-to-use digital thermometer is perfect, experts say – the no-frills type in pharmacies and supermarkets for under $ 20.
“Accuracy is not based on cost,” says Gary L. LeRoy, family doctor in Dayton, Ohio, and president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
For adults and children 4 years of age and older, oral temperature measurement is the most popular. Readings from the rectal thermometer are more accurate, the researchers said, but the slight difference in result is not significant for ordinary use.
Some basics: Before each use, wash your thermometer in cold water. Then wipe with rubbing alcohol and rinse again. Do not eat or drink anything hot or cold for at least five minutes before placing the thermometer under your tongue. Recently, being outside in the cold or heat or in a hot tub could also disrupt a reading, as could strenuous exercise.
Remember to keep your mouth completely closed and breathe through your nose during the 30 to 40 seconds of reading. When finished, clean the thermometer again with water and alcohol. Use a towel when putting it away or give it to someone, Hochman suggests.
Rectal thermometers are recommended for children up to the age of 3 years. To take rectal temperatures, use petroleum jelly or soluble petroleum jelly for lubrication and insert the thermometer no more than half an inch into the rectum. Never use the same thermometer to take oral and rectal temperatures, says LeRoy.
Ear thermometers are not as accurate as oral or rectal readings, but acceptable for adults and children over 3 months of age. Underarm temperature measurement is the least accurate and should be avoided unless it is the only option, says LeRoy.
Mercury thermometers? LeRoy scolded me when I confessed that it was all I had. OK boomer. During operation, these thermometers were discontinued in 2011. If the glass cracks, exposure to mercury is dangerous. If you have one, it’s a good idea to put it back and follow the hazardous waste disposal recommendations where you live.
Now for the numbers. Conventional wisdom is that 100.4 degrees signals fever. “Normal” varies however and ranges from 97 to 99.5 degrees in people. Women tend to have higher temperatures than men, older adults generally run lower. Rectal and auricular readings are generally higher than the temperatures taken orally.
Your temperature can also vary by one degree depending on the time of day – the lowest in the morning and increasing throughout the day. “If you’re 100.4 degrees in the morning, it’s a real fever,” says Hochman. But if your temperature rises in the afternoon or in the evening, it’s “a natural variation,” he says, and doesn’t mean you’re sicker.
“Don’t get angry by taking your temperature more than two to three times a day,” adds Hochman for those with symptoms. The thermometer provides information, he says. He is more worried about someone who looks sick or confused than a number on a thermometer.
LeRoy points out that a weak read does not guarantee that you are well. “You could be in a scary phase of the fever,” he explains, when the body tries to reset its temperature. Check your temperature once in a while if you’re not feeling well, he says.
When to call a doctor about fever? “You can be feverish for several days without being alarmed,” says Hochman. With covid-19, all of the symptoms of fever are of concern – dry cough, shortness of breath, fatigue.
“Use your judgment,” says Hochman. “Let the overall picture guide you. “