Axillary Temperature with Electronic Thermometer

Written by Hollie Finders, RN
Hollie Finders is a registered nurse with years of experience working in the health care field. She has degrees in both biochemistry and nursing. After working with patients of all ages, Hollie now specializes in pediatric intensive care nursing. Hollie’s LinkedIn

Procedure

Equipment needed: axillary thermometer, disposable probe cover, and gloves

  1. Perform hand hygiene and put on gloves.
  2. Explain the procedure to the patient and ask for his or her assistance in following directions.
  3. Get the thermometer from its base unit and apply a disposable cover to the probe. Be sure the probe cover is secure and locked into place. If the thermometer has multiple modes, be sure to use axillary mode.
  4. Expose the axilla (armpit) by moving the patient’s arm away from the torso.
  5. Inspect the axilla for rashes and/or open sores. If present, stop and attempt to use the opposite axilla or choose another method for obtaining the patient’s temperature. Be sure to report the found skin issues to the nurse.
  6. If needed, dry the axilla by wiping the area with a tissue.
  7. Place the tip of the covered probe into the center of the axilla and return the arm to the patient’s side. Create a tight seal around the probe by folding the patient’s arm onto his or her chest.
  8. Hold the probe in place until the thermometer signals completion (depending on the device, it may flash or beep). Read the temperature on the electronic display screen.
  9. Gently lift the arm away from the body and remove the probe.
  10. Eject the disposable probe cover into the waste bin and return the thermometer to its base unit.
  11. Remove gloves and perform hand hygiene.
  12. Record temperature, method used (axillary), date, and time in the patient’s chart.
  13. Alert the medical professional of any changes in the patient’s condition.

Important Information

Compared to other temperature measurement methods, the axillary measurement is considered the least reliable. An axillary temperature measurement typically reads 0.5 to 1 degree Fahrenheit lower than an oral temperature reading [1]. For this reason, it is recommended to use this method only when other methods are contraindicated or when taking an axillary temperature is the safest method for the patient (e.g. unconscious, confused, uncooperative, and/or disoriented patients). If a patient has an injury to the arm or shoulder, has recently had chest or breast surgery, or has a rash or an open sore in the axilla, the unaffected side should be used to perform the temperature measurement.

References

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11198790

More Resources

Measuring the Radial Pulse

The radial artery, located in the wrist, is easy to feel and an efficient location to measure heart rate. Changes to the rhythm or strength of the radial pulse can indicate heart disease, damage to the arm, or body fluid status. It is important to remember to check the radial pulse on both sides as differences between left and right can indicate injury or disease processes.

Using a Gait / Transfer Belt to Assist the Resident to Ambulate

Walking (aka, ambulating) helps residents maintain mobility and independence, and prevents complications. However, ambulation must be done safely so that the resident does not have a fall or injury. A gait or transfer belt, when properly used, can increase resident safety. Gait belts can vary between facilities, so make sure you know how to use the one in your facility.

Dressing and Undressing a Patient

Patients who have suffered a stroke or have weakness or injury to one side of their body may struggle with dressing and undressing. In order to help these patients regain their strength and independence, it is important that the nurse’s aide only assist them as needed. The nurse’s aide may need to teach patients how to dress and undress safely with their limitations.

Caring for a Patient’s Dentures

For patients with dentures, care of the dentures is just as important as brushing natural teeth. Good denture hygiene and fit helps prevent oral irritation and infection.

Supine Position

Supine position is a natural and comfortable position for most people. For this reason, it is a highly utilized position for nursing procedures. Unfortunately, this position puts pressure on many bony prominences that can lead to discomfort and/or pressure ulcers if the pressure is not relieved every so often (typically every two hours or less).

Partial Bed Bath

Bathing is an important part of a patient’s health routine. A partial bed bath focuses on bathing sensitive areas that cause discomfort if not cleansed frequently, such as the face, hands, axillae, back, and perineum. Though patients receiving a bed bath are typically confined to the bed, some are able to wash themselves and should be encouraged to do so to promote independence.