Research Article| Volume 23, ISSUE 2, P287-295, March 2023

A Cross-sectional Study Characterizing Pediatric Temperature Percentiles in Children at Well-Child Visits



      Temperature measurement plays a central role in determining pediatric patients' disease risk and management. However, current pediatric temperature thresholds may be outdated and not applicable to children.


      To characterize pediatric temperature norms and variation by patient characteristics, time of measurement, and thermometer route.


      In this cross-sectional study, we analyzed 134,641 well-child visits occurring between 2014-2019 at primary care clinics that routinely measured temperature. We performed bivariate and multivariable quantile regressions with clustered standard errors to determine temperature percentiles and variation by age, sex, time of measurement, and thermometer route. We performed sensitivity analyses: 1) using a cohort that excluded visits with infectious diagnoses that could explain temperature aberrations and 2) including clinic as a fixed effect.


      The median rectal temperature for visits of infants ≤12 months old was 37.2˚C, which was 0.4˚C higher than the median axillary temperature. The median axillary temperature for children 1–18 years old was 36.7˚C, which was 0.1˚C lower than the median values of all other routes. The 99th percentile for rectal temperatures in infants was 37.8˚C and the 99.9th percentile for axillary temperatures in children was 38.5˚C. Adjusted analyses did not demonstrate clinically significant variation in temperature by sex, age, or time of measurement.


      These updated temperature norms can serve as reference values in clinical practice and should be considered in the context of thermometer route used and the clinical condition being evaluated. Variations in temperature values by sex, age, and time of measurement were not clinically significant.



      STARR (Stanford Research Repository), EMR (electronic medical record), BMI (body mass index), kg (kilograms, in, inches), CI (confidence intervals), IQR (interquartile range), Center for Disease Control & Prevention ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices)
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