530 Health Care Skills
How to Take Temperature, Pulse, Respiration,
and Blood Pressure
When a person is sick or has a health problem, her basic physical signs may change.
The next few pages tell how to measure these signs to know if a person has a problem.
If you need to know a person’s temperature and do not
have a thermometer, touch the back of your hand to the
person’s skin, and compare it with your own skin. If her skin
feels much warmer, she probably has a fever. To learn what
to do for a fever, see page 297.
If you have a thermometer, you can
take a person’s temperature in the
mouth, armpit, or rectum. A person’s
temperature is normally cooler in the
armpit, warmer in the mouth, and
warmest in the rectum. There are
2 kinds of thermometer scales. Here
is how they compare. Either can be
used to measure a person’s temperature.
The levels listed here for normal and fever
temperatures are for the mouth.
How to take the temperature
(using a thermometer marked in degrees Celsius—°C)
1. Clean the thermometer well with soap and cold water, or alcohol. Hold it at the
end without the silver (or red) and shake it hard, with a snap of the wrist, until it
reads less than 36 degrees.
2. Put the thermometer . . .
in the armpit if there is
OR danger that
carefully, in the rectum (wet
or apply petroleum gel first).
3. Leave it there for 3 or 4 minutes.
4. Read it (see above).
5. Wash the thermometer well with soap and cold water. Then, if you can, soak it for
20 minutes in a bleach solution (see page 527) and rinse with clean water.
Glass thermometers are filled with mercury, a very poisonous metal. Be careful with
glass thermometers, and if they break, do not pick up the mercury with
your bare hands. Sweep the mercury into a jar and bury it.
Do not let children play with thermometers or
mercury. Get a digital thermometer if you can.
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012