Modern electronic and chemical thermometers used in the axilla are inaccurate
Rectal and axillary temperatures were measured simultaneously in 83 children using three different thermometer devices providing 166 pairs of results. In the first series consisting of 22 febrile children (44 measurements) and 20 afebrile children (40 measurements), the rectal mercury measurement was compared to an axillary mercury and axillary Tempa-DOT thermometer. The axillary mercury had sensitivity of 14/22 (64%) and specificity of 20/20 (100%) while the Tempa-DOT had sensitivity of 15/22 (68%) and specificity of 19/20 (95%). In the second series comprising 21 febrile children (42 measurements) and 20 afebrile children (40 measurements) the axillary mercury had sensitivity of 11/21 (52%) and specificity of 20/20 (100%) while the electronic thermometer had sensitivity of 10/21 (48%) and specificity of 20/20 (100%). Regardless of the thermometer used, the axilla is a poor alternative to rectal measurements in the diagnosis of fever.
Mercury-free thermometers, when used in the axilla are as poor alternatives to reetal measurements as mercury-in-glass thermometers.
Key wordsMercury-in-glass thermometer Tempa-DOT thermometer Electronic thermometer
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