How to measure a patient’s temperature non-invasively
Intended for healthcare professionals
Evidence and practice    

How to measure a patient’s temperature non-invasively

Joyce Smith Adult lecturer, School of Health and Society, University of Salford, Salford, England
Melanie Ann Rushton Adult lecturer, School of Health and Society, University of Salford, Salford, England
Mike Barker Adult lecturer, School of Health and Society, University of Salford, Salford, England

Why you should read this article:
  • To optimise your practice when undertaking temperature measurements at various sites

  • To understand the importance of measuring temperature to provide information about a patient’s health and its role in diagnosis and patient monitoring

  • To recognise the link between elevated temperature and potential bacterial or viral infections

  • To enhance your knowledge of the factors that can influence the accuracy of temperature readings

Rationale and key points

Temperature is a vital sign that is included in all early warning scoring tools and as part of patient observations. This article outlines the main non-invasive methods that can be used to measure a patient’s temperature.

• Temperature is important in establishing a baseline to evaluate treatment, monitoring signs of any allergic reaction or infection, and recognising significant changes in temperature, for example hypothermia and hyperthermia.

• Nurses should understand the pathophysiology of temperature regulation and be familiar with the various methods used to measure temperature. They should also be aware of the environmental factors that may result in inaccurate temperature readings.

• It is crucial to identify any signs of clinical deterioration in patients, including elevated or lowered temperature, and respond to these in a timely manner.

Reflective activity

‘How to’ articles can help to update your practice and ensure it remains evidence-based. Apply this article to your practice. Reflect on and write a short account of:

1. How reading this article will change your practice in measuring patients’ temperature.

2. How this article could be used to provide information to patients about temperature measurements.

Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2019.e11346

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software


Conflict of interest

None declared

Smith J, Rushton MA, Barker M (2019) How to measure a patient’s temperature non-invasively. Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2019.e11346


Please note that information provided by Nursing Standard is not sufficient to make the reader competent to perform the task. All clinical skills should be formally assessed at the bedside by a nurse educator or mentor. It is the nurse’s responsibility to ensure their practice remains up to date and reflects the latest evidence

Published online: 09 September 2019

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