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Lesson 2 -- Temperature

2-14. WHAT PARTS OF THE BODY ARE USED IN DETERMINING TEMPERATURE?

There are three principal locations for taking the patient's temperature (figure 2-4).

a. Mouth. A temperature taken by placing a thermometer in the patient's mouth is called an oral temperature. Most of the temperatures taken in a medical facility are oral temperatures. A thermometer designed for taking an oral temperature is called an oral thermometer.

b. Armpit. A temperature taken by placing a thermometer under the patient's arm in his armpit area is called an axillary temperature. A thermometer designed for taking oral temperatures is also used to take axillary temperatures.

c.  Rectum. A temperature taken by holding a thermometer within the patient's rectum is called a rectal temperature. A thermometer designed for taking a rectal temperature is called a rectal thermometer.

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Figure 2-4. Three locations for taking temperatures.

2-15. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN ORAL THERMOMETER AND A RECTAL THERMOMETER?

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Figure 2-5. Oral and rectal glass thermometers.

a. Glass Oral Thermometers.

(1) The bulb of an oral thermometer is either long tipped, pear-shaped, or stubby (figure 2-5 A ). A long and slender bulb exposes as much surface area of the mercury as possible. Having more surface area exposed helps obtain an accurate temperature quickly.

(2) The other (stem) end of the oral thermometer is colored blue. Color-coding thermometers lets you tell an oral thermometer from a rectal thermometer quickly.

b. Glass Rectal Thermometers.

(1) The bulb of a rectal thermometer is short and thick in order to protect the rectum (figure 2-5 B ). A long, slender bulb tip could accidentally injure the patient by penetrating the walls of the rectum. A blunt tipped thermometer is much less likely to damage the rectum. Remember, a thermometer with a long and slender bulb is definitely an oral thermometer while a thermometer with a short and thick bulb could be either an oral thermometer or a rectal thermometer.

(2) The stem end of a rectal thermometer is color-coded red. (Remember, the two R's--red and rectal--go together.)

c. Electric Thermometer Probes. Electric thermometers come with two different sensing devices (probes). One probe is designated as an oral probe while the other is designated as a rectal probe. The oral probe is color-coded blue while the rectal probe is color coded red. The oral probe and the rectal probe have the same shape and size. The color-coding is simply to prevent a probe from being used to take a temperature rectally one time and a temperature orally the next.

2-16. WILL I GET THE SAME TEMPERATURE READINGS FOR ORAL, AXILLARY, AND RECTAL TEMPERATURES?

The location where the temperature is taken causes a slight difference in a patient's temperature reading. Suppose you were to measure a patient's oral, axillary, and rectal temperature at the same time. The axillary temperature reading would be about 1 F (0.6 C) lower than the oral temperature reading while the rectal temperature reading would be about 1 F (0.6 C) higher than the oral temperature reading (figure 2-6).

NOTE: This example is given in order to illustrate a point. You do not take a patient's temperature three different ways at the same time.

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Figure 2-6. Normal average rectal, oral, and axillary temperature readings (approximate).

 

This course is derived from the original work, Taking Vital Signs, Academy of Health Sciences, Fort Sam Houston, Texas

David L. Heiserman, Editor

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Revised: December 03, 2014