If your baby feels warm and looks unwell, it’s a good idea to check her temperature.
Simple task, right?
Until you take a few temperature readings from the same ear, and each result is different by a few decimal points…
I am not even going to mention the difference between both ears, which may vary by degrees in some cases!!!
So, which temperature reading is the right one?
The logical solution would be to go with the highest temperature…
Or, maybe with the average from all readings…
Or perhaps they are all wrong because my thermometer is faulty?
Even more puzzling is that the doctors take the temperature once and from one ear only. And they absolutely believe this result!
Okay, so without further delay, here’s what you need to know about taking ear temperature and why it may vary between the ears.
Why Is My Baby’s Temperature Different In Each Ear?
It is not uncommon for the temperature to differ slightly between the ears. The main reason for this is the physiological difference between the ears, affecting the fit of the thermometer tip. Another possibility is an ear infection causing the increased temperature of the affected ear. Certain factors may affect the accuracy of temperature readings, such as excessive ear wax, moisture (of any sort) within the ear, or if the baby was sleeping on the ear.
How To Use an Ear Thermometer?
Digital ear thermometers use an infrared sensor to measure the temperature within the ear canal of the eardrum, or more specifically – the tympanic membrane.
These handy gadgets are popular among parents because they are non-invasive, hygienic, gentle, and give results within seconds.
Also, they seem to be simple to use.
But – don’t be fooled.
Taking a temperature with an ear thermometer requires skill.
So, it is prudent to study and follow the manufacturer’s instructions if you want to ensure you get accurate results.
How to Take a Temperature: Under Arm, Oral, Ear, Rectum, Skin, Temporal
Take note of the following tips as well:
- Always use new and unused hygiene caps before taking a reading to avoid cross-infection between the usage;
- Place the ear probe snugly in the ear canal, pointing towards the eardrum;
- Make sure the ear probe is pointing down the ear canal and not the side of the ear.
- Avoid pushing the thermometer tip deep into the ear canal. As soon as you feel resistance, take the temperature reading. (And in case you are worried – the ear thermometers won’t reach the sensitive parts of the ear).
- Keep practising measuring temperature when your baby is well. This will allow you to determine the “normal” temperature in both ears!
Okay, now that we know the proper technique for measuring temperature, let’s verify whether your ear thermometer works.
Does Your Baby’s Ear Thermometer Work?
So, the easiest way to check whether your baby’s ear thermometer works is -simply to test it on yourself.
Taking a few measurements in each ear should do the trick and provide some clarity. And hopefully, consistent results.
You might also want to verify these readings with another thermometer, like a good old-school digital thermometer that takes measurements from underarms.
Now, let’s discuss what factors may affect the accuracy of temperature readings that can lead to false results.
Excessive Ear Wax
So, the rule is the less earwax in the ear, the more accurate the temperature readings will be.
Excessive dirt or ear wax will show that the temperature is lower than the unobscured ear.
Related Post ===>Is It Okay For My Baby To Get Water In Her Ears?
Moisture In the Ear, Ear Drops
Remember that an ear thermometer uses infrared light to detect thermal energy emitted by the tympanic ear membrane?
Therefore, any moisture present in the ear, such as water, puss, blood or ear drops – will jolt on the ear thermometer reading and give a false result.
Lying on The Ear
It has been scientifically proven that lying on the ear will significantly increase its temperature. A similar effect is when your baby wears something that covers ears to keep them warm.
So, before taking the reading, ensure your baby didn’t wear a hat or ear muffs or lied on the ear for at least 30 minutes. Alternatively, use other body parts to check the temperature.
Want to eliminate these issues?
Use a rectal thermometer, which is usually more accurate than the ear thermometer, as it is regarded as the most accurate method for measuring temperature in babies.
*** SIDE NOTE – did you know that the temperature will vary depending on the type of thermometer you use and from which body part??? For example:
- In the ear or rectum, the temperature is usually 0.3°C – 0.6°C higher than in the mouth.
- But the armpit and forehead temperature is between 0.3°C – 0.6°C lower than in the mouth.
And finally, let’s focus on the reasons the temperature in one ear is higher than in the other ear:
According to a study conducted by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, if your child has an ear infection, not only will the affected ear be painful, but the temperature may also raise. Obviously, the infected ear is hotter than the not-infected one.
To minimise your baby’s discomfort, it is recommended to check the temperature in the unaffected ear or from other body parts, such as underarms, mouth, and bottoms.
Physiological Difference Between the Ears
As with any body part that comes in pairs, like feet, legs, and arms – ears can vary in size and shape. So, one can be slightly bigger than the other. And that is a completely normal phenomenon.
As a result, if you detect a temperature difference between your baby’s ears during a “normal” state, then it will also differ if your baby has a fever.
Ear Probe Fits Better To One Ear Than To The Other
Also, due to the same physiological difference between the ears – the tip of the thermometer may fit more snuggly in one ear than in the other.
Not without impact are also tiny and curved ear canals that babies have, which can also skew temperature readings.
Final Few Lines
The bottom line is it is quite normal for temperature readings to be slightly different between the ears.
The important thing is to be aware of the factors that may alter the temperature, such as earwax, moisture in the ears, ear infections, etc.
Ear thermometers are a brilliant invention, widely appreciated by parents and healthcare providers because they are accurate, quick, hygienic and non-invasive.
However, they are not as simple to use as they may appear.
Nevertheless, everyone can master the technique of measuring temperature with practice and be confident of their results.