Our human body can adjust well to extreme fluctuations in temperature of its surrounding. No matter if its freezing outside or boiling, human body temperature is maintained at pretty much the same level. The hypothalamus, located in the brain is responsible for controlling the body temperature. It is known as the thermostat of the body, as it tells it when to raise the body temperature and when to cool it down. Normal body temperature for infants and children may slightly vary from that of adults. Knowing normal body temperature range is important to diagnose the possibility of fever in children.
Maintaining Normal Body Temperature in Children
As mentioned above, human body maintains a fairly constant temperature irrespective of the atmospheric temperature. Body temperature regulation is done by dilating or constricting the blood vessels. When it is too hot outside, your body dilates blood vessels, so that blood is brought closer to the skin surface. The heat near the skin causes you to sweat, which helps to bring down your body temperature. As sweat evaporates, your skin actually cools down and you feel comfortable. On the other hand, during winters, the outside temperature drops drastically. In that case, your body needs to preserve the heat inside it. This is done by constricting the blood vessels, so that heat is not brought to the surface of the skin. Additionally, your body begins to shiver, which is a result of involuntary muscle twitching. This further helps to generate heat inside the body. The same mechanism works in children as well.
Normal Body Temperature for Children
Normal body temperature in children is slightly less than that in adults. Body temperature can be measured in degree Fahrenheit or degree Celsius. In the United States, degree Fahrenheit is considered as a standard measure of body temperature, whereas most other countries of the world rely on degree Celsius scale. It is very normal for body temperature to fluctuate throughout the day. The temperature is generally low in the morning whereas high in the evening. The temperature fluctuation can be as high as 1.5 degree when measured in Celsius and 2.3 degree when measured in Fahrenheit. Besides, it is also normal for your child to have body temperature that is 1 degree above or below the normal body temperature range. As long as it remains fairly constant, you have no reason to worry. Body temperature for children when taken orally or inside ears is 97.7ºF to 99.1ºF or 36ºC to 36.8ºC.
In children, the rectal temperature gives the most accurate count of body temperature. It is slightly higher (about 0.5ºC or 2ºF) than the oral or ear temperature. In most hospitals, rectal temperature is preferred over temperature taken from other parts of body. However, taking rectal temperature at home is not recommended as it involves certain risks. Besides, you do not need that level of precision or accuracy when taking baby's body temperature at home.
High body temperature in children is an indication of fever. Fever is the body's natural mechanism to fight off infection. The body raises its temperature so as to make it difficult for pathogens to survive. On the other hand low body temperature in children is also equally worrisome. It could be a result of cold exposure, hypothyroidism etc. If you note a change in body temperature of your child for more than two days, take her to the doctor.
Use a digital thermometer to get a more accurate and safe reading. Mercury thermometers are risky and hazardous to the environment. Forehead strips should only be used for reference as they are not very reliable.