How to take a patient’s temperature
Intended for healthcare professionals
how to series    

How to take a patient’s temperature

Rebecca Myatt Clinical Nurse Specialist, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, London, England

Why you should read this article:
  • To refresh your knowledge of the reasons for taking a patient’s temperature

  • To understand the procedure for taking a patient’s temperature using the oral, tympanic, axillary and forehead sites

  • To enable you to recognise the factors that may affect temperature readings

Rationale and key points

Being able to accurately assess and record a patient’s temperature is an essential nursing skill, and should be undertaken as part of a wider systematic assessment of the patient. Any concerns regarding individual recordings or trends should be escalated to other members of the healthcare team as appropriate.

• A baseline assessment of a patient’s temperature enables any changes or fluctuations to be observed, and escalated where clinically indicated.

• Accurate assessment and recording of a patient’s temperature provides an indication of their clinical condition and severity of illness.

• Undertaking regular temperature readings enables trends to be identified, the effectiveness of treatment to be determined, and improvement or deterioration of the patient to be assessed.

Reflective activity

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

• How reading this article may change your practice when taking and recording the patient’s temperature.

• Any further needs you have identified to enable your professional development.

Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2021.e11679

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

Myatt R (2021) How to take a patient’s temperature. Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2021.e11679

Disclaimer 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 according to local policy and procedures. It is the nurse’s responsibility to ensure their practice remains up to date and reflects the latest evidence

Published online: 08 February 2021

Want to read more?

Already subscribed? Log in


Unlock full access to RCNi Plus today

Save over 50% on your first 3 months

Your subscription package includes:
  • Unlimited online access to all 10 RCNi Journals and their archives
  • Customisable dashboard featuring 200+ topics
  • RCNi Learning featuring 180+ RCN accredited learning modules
  • RCNi Portfolio to build evidence for revalidation
  • Personalised newsletters tailored to your interests
RCN student member? Try Nursing Standard Student

Alternatively, you can purchase access to this article for the next seven days. Buy now