• Measuring a Patient’s Temperature

    Vital signs include temperature, pulse, respirations, and blood pressure. Many facilities have introduced a fifth vital sign–pain level. The skills to measure vital signs are simple but should never become routine. You must me able to measure vital signs accurately, understand and interpret the values, and communicate findings appropriately.

    The patient’s condition and reason for recording the temperature will give an indication of how frequently it should be recorded. A temperature reading of 98.6ºF or 37ºC is considered normal. However, variations from 97ºF to 99.6ºF (36.1ºC to 37.5ºC) are considered to be within normal range. Factors that affect body temperature include: age, exercise, hormonal influences, stress, environment, drinking hot or cold liquids, and smoking. In older adults the normal range commonly decreases. Any form of exercise can increase a body temperature. In women, hormone changes during ovulation and menopause can cause temperature fluctuations. Stress, such as anxiety, may elevate body temperature. Environmental temperature extremes can raise or lower the body temperature. Ingestion of hot or cold liquids, as well as smoking, can cause slight variations in temperature readings.

    There are two kinds of body temperature. Core temperature is the temperature of the deep tissue of the body; surface temperature is the temperature of the skin. Temperature measurements are obtained by using the following: heat patches or disposable, single-use thermometer strips, electronic thermometers, and tympanic thermometers (inserted into the ear canal). Mercury thermometers are being phased out. The choice of thermometer depends on the condition of the patient. You need to be aware of normal body temperatures according to sites (oral, rectal, axillary, and tympanic). The thermometer must be in proper working condition to ensure accurate results.

    Wash hands before and after taking the temperature to avoid cross-infection. If temperature obtained is abnormal, repeat measurement. Temperature elevations my be the first sign of an illness. Signs and symptoms of an elevated temperature include: thirst; flushed, warm skin; glassy eyes; headache; elevated pulse and respiratory rates; restlessness or sleepiness; increased perspiration; and disorientation.

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