In a few words

5. Tympanic temperature

In a few words 5: Tympanic temperature

Jeff Kenneally –

Evaluating body temperature is a critical part of the vital signs. Body temperature is unreliable to assess through touch alone. Patients who feel hot or cold may have normal body temperatures. Others who feel normal to touch may have very abnormal body temperatures. Like all vital signs, temperature must be assessed correctly to ensure it is accurate.  Accurate assessment of body temperature should be considered one of the fourth vital signs along with perfusion, respiratory status and conscious state.

Tympanic temperature evaluation is common, easy and accurate. A good device has a wide range of readings to consider normal range and extremes of emergencies. There are a number of factors that can interfere with normal readings. Lying on the ear, wearing an ear piece or ear infection will raise the ear temperature. The ear should be left several minutes to cool before using. Excessive ear wax will block the device from reading.

Extremes in air temperature and immersion in water can also change the temperature in the ear. Importantly, so too can inserting the probe into the ear incorrectly. For adults the ear must be pulled slightly upward and backward to ensure the probe tip can access the tympanic artery. For infant children (less than one) the ear must be simply pulled straight backward.  Incorrect insertion can cause temperature to be inaccurate by as much as 1°C

tympanic ear incorrect (177x169)



  Incorrect method with ear not pulled upward/backward 


tympanic ear correct (195x162)



  Correct method with canal pulled and straightened




2 thoughts on “5. Tympanic temperature

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