The four major vital signs that are measured by the medical professionals or healthcare providers are: body temperature, pulse rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure. These signs assess the body's functionality, and help in identifying any abnormalities from a person's normal and healthy state. These signs are recorded by a healthcare professional like a nurse and/or physician to establish various physiological statistics, and to identify the level at which a person's body is functioning. Hence, based on these parameters, in case of any abnormalities, necessary treatment or medications are provided to the patient. Generally, normal ranges of measurements of these signs change with the person's age and medical condition.
Normal Vital Signs by Age
The vital signs remain relatively constant throughout our adult life. However, as infants and children grow and age, the range of these signs changes.
The normal body temperature of an individual is a measure of the core body heat, which varies according to the gender, weight, recent activity, food, fluid consumption, and time of the day. It is recorded to detect fever (pyrexia or a febrile condition), or to monitor the degree of hypothermia (drop in body temperature). This parameter can be recorded in any of the following ways:
- Orally: Temperature is measured by keeping either the classic glass thermometer or the modern digital thermometers in the mouth under the tongue. This method is never used in infants and children, as they can accidentally bite or break the thermometer.
- Rectally: A glass or digital thermometer is inserted in the rectum. This method is commonly used in infants, and provides the most accurate recording of the temperature.
- Axillary: The temperature is measured by placing a glass or digital thermometer under the armpit. This measurement tends to be 0.3 to 0.4° F lower than those measured orally or rectally, and hence, provides the least accurate results.
- Through Ear: In this technique, a special thermometer is used to measure the temperature of the eardrum, which reflects the core body temperature.
|Age Group||Temperature (in ° Fahrenheit)|
|Newborn||97.7° F - 99.5° F|
|Infants (1 year or less)||97.0° F - 99.0° F|
|Toddlers (1 - 3 years)||97.5° F - 98.6° F|
|Pre-schooler (3 - 6 years)||97.5° F - 98.6° F|
|School aged children (7 - 12 years)||97.5° F - 98.6° F|
|Adolescent (12 - 17 years)||97.5° F - 98.6° F|
|Adults (Above 18 years)||97.6° F - 99° F|
|Elders (Above 70 years)||96.8° F - 97.5° F|
It is the measure of an individual's heart rate, or number of times a heart beats per minute. It varies or fluctuates with exercise, illness, injury, and emotions. The heart pumps blood through the arteries, which expand and contract with the blood flow, and hence, the pulse rate can be measured on any surface of arteries that pass over a bone. However, one of the most commonly used places to measure it is the radial artery in the wrist. Keep your index, middle, and ring fingers over this artery, which is placed above the wrist, on the anterior or front surface of the thumb side of the arm. Gently apply pressure, and note the rate, rhythm, strength, and tension of the pulse.
|Age Group||Normal Pulse Rate (in beats per minute)||Average Pulse Rate (in beats per minute)|
|Newborn||100 - 170||140|
|Infants (1 year or less)||80 - 170||120|
|Toddlers (1 - 3 years)||80 - 130||110|
|Pre-schooler (3 - 6 years)||75 - 120||100|
|School aged children (7 - 12 years)||70 - 110||90|
|Adolescent (12 - 17 years)||60 - 90||75|
|Adults (Above 18 years)||60 - 110||80|
It is basically the number of breaths taken by an individual per minute. It is normally measured by counting the number of times a person breathes in a minute, when at rest. However, this rate varies with fever, illness, or any other health related conditions.
|Age Group||Normal Respiratory Rate (in breaths per minute)||Average Respiratory Rate (in breaths per minute)|
|Newborn||30 - 50||40|
|Infants (1 year or less)||20 - 40||30|
|Toddlers (1 - 3 years)||20 - 30||25|
|Pre-schooler (3 - 6 years)||16 - 22||19|
|School aged children (7 - 12 years)||14 - 20||17|
|Adolescent (12 - 17 years)||12 - 20||16|
|Adults (Above 18 years)||12 - 20||18|
It is the force with which the blood pushes against the artery walls, each time the heart beats. One can't measure his/her blood pressure, unless he/she is using an electronic pressure measuring device. However, a classic monitoring device comprises a pressure cuff and stethoscope, which is operated by a nurse and/or physician to measure the blood pressure of a patient. While measuring it, two pressures are recorded: systolic and diastolic pressure. The former refers to the pressure inside the artery, when the heart contracts and pumps blood into the body. The latter pressure refers to the pressure inside the artery, which is present between the two consecutive heartbeats, i.e., when the heart is at rest. Both these types are measured in "mm Hg" (millimeters of mercury).
|Newborn||65 - 95||30 - 60||80 - 60|
|Infants (1 year or less)||65 - 115||42 - 80||90 - 61|
|Toddlers (1 - 3 years)||76 - 122||46 - 84||99 - 65|
|Pre-schooler (3 - 6 years)||85 - 115||48 - 64||100 - 56|
|School aged children (6 - 12 years)||93 - 125||46 - 68||109 - 58|
|Adolescent (12 - 17 years)||99 - 137||51 - 71||118 - 61|
|Adults (Above 18 years)||100 - 140||60 - 90||120 - 80|
Recording these signs are an essential part of the health check ups, which should be done on regular basis. However, any abnormalities in these signs should not be ignored, and should be reported to the concerned professionals.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.