Many parents do not fully understand how they can determine wether their child is having a cold or the flu. Is that a trivial distinction? Absolutely not. A study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States reports that half of all flu-related deaths in the US occurred in otherwise healthy children, 22 percent of whom were fully vaccinated. Detecting a fever in time is therefore of crucial importance.

Recently, the CDC in the United States published a study showing children’s vulnerability to the flu in the US. The study, titled “Influenza-Associated Pediatric Deaths in the United States, 2010-2016”, analyzes reported flu-related deaths in children younger than 18 over the course of six flu seasons, from October 2010 through September 2016. Results showed that half of all flu-related deaths occurred in otherwise healthy children, 22 percent of whom were fully vaccinated. Detecting fever

‘Feels warm’

For many people the difference between a cold and a flu (influenza) is difficult to determine – especially when it comes to children. The most important difference is whether the patient has a fever. Often a hand is simply put on the forehead of the child and an attempt is made to determine whether the patient feels – so to speak – warm to the touch. Of course, this method is not very accurate. Certainly not when we consider that even with a cold an elevated body temperature can occur. How do we determine whether an instinctively ‘warm forehead’ indicates a fever or an elevated temperature? Only by using an accurate thermometer are we able to determine what is the exact body temperature of the patient.


Nurses know that concerns about children and fever extend far beyond flu season. No vital sign is as important to monitor as body temperature when it comes to determining the cause of a patient’s condition or illness. Some diseases cause the body to become warmer than normal and some cause it to be cooler. Other times, the patient’s body temperature will stay normal. For each of these scenarios, determining body temperature is a crucial first step when diagnosing a patient’s health or condition.

Providing information

It is therefore important that nurses and doctors actively provide information about fever and flu. It is crucial that parents of babies and young children in particular, as well as caregivers of older adults and the elderly, know exactly how to determine the extent to which a sick person has a fever, an elevated body temperature or a normal body temperature.

It is not only very important that parents and caregivers determine the patient’s body temperature, but also that they know how to do so. A small error in the measuring procedure can lead to a deviation in the measured body temperature. The same applies, by the way, to children in for example primary schools, kindergartens and after-school care institutions.

Invasive products

Measuring the body temperature is therefore very important, but is oftentimes not a pleasant experience for many patients. Rectal thermometers and ear thermometers have the disadvantage that both are highly invasive. The use of these types of thermometers leads to a good determination of the body thermometer, but they have a serious impact on the patient’s comfort. Especially if the patient also suffers from headaches or earaches.

Temporal measurement

A promising alternative is temporal measurement. The body temperature is determined by measuring the temperature of the blood in the temporal artery. The artery lies is located only one millimeter below the skin on the forehead. A careful movement of the sensor of the thermometer over the forehead to the hairline is sufficient to accurately determine the body temperature. This makes this method not only very comfortable for the patient, but it also allows the body temperature to be determined quickly and very accurately.