How to administer eyedrops and take the temperature of a squirmy toddler? Talk amongst yourselves.

Instant Ear ThermometerWe’ve been felled by illness around here, too, so I feel Jenna’s pain:

We’ve just had two rounds of ear infections and pinkeye with our 14 month old. Any suggestions for how to take a squirmy toddler’s temperature or how to get eye drops in his eyes? It would be really helpful.

We’ve got a hack for administering eyedrops, but none for temperature-taking. I’ve had good luck with the in-the-ear thermometer, but then I’m not too concerned with exact temperatures (I figure a fever’s a fever). Any other ideas?

More: Best of Parent Hacks: Cold and flu season tips


  1. Victoria says

    My kids would never sit for the drops, so I ask the ped for eye ointment instead; I smear some ointment along the lower eyelid using a cotton ball and I know it doesn’t all drip out.

  2. Alex says

    It makes me a little nervous to hear you say “a fever’s a fever.” A fever’s just a fever until it gets too high and fries your kid’s brain. I have a nonverbal severely disabled uncle to prove it. You need to know when it is time to go to the doctor.

  3. says

    We use the temporal lobe thermometer (got it on Amazon) but it’s not exact – just enough to know when it’s time to get the rectal thermometer out (if the fever is high, I’m willing to upset my kids by sticking that thing up their bum).

  4. says

    I’ve never tried this for eyedrops or taking a temp, but it would probably work…

    Our son had constant ear infections and even had 3 infections after he got tubes in. To keep him still, I would swaddle him in his swaddling blanket (until he got too big for that and then I used a beach towel), put him on my bed and straddle him. It looked like I was sitting on him, but I wasn’t. I was able to get ear drops in his ears (or flush out his ears) and all I really needed to hold was his head.

  5. Margaret says

    My 2 year old is SUPER squirmy and this is what works for us:

    For eye drops: My pediatrician also prescribes as an ointment. He actually instructed us to put it on the baby’s eyelid and let some go on the eyelashes too. What happens is that baby rubs at eyes and works the ointment in.

    For temp: I let my son stick a thermometer in my ear while I do his. It takes all his concentration to get it in the hole (and keep it there), so he barely notices what I am doing to his ear. I will say he has jabbed me a couple times, but we always remind him, “Be gentle,” and that helps. We also whisper sing whatever his current favorite song is while we do it.

  6. says

    We got a temporal lobe thermometer. They used one on my eldest in the hospital so I was thrilled when I saw one at the store for home use. We hardly use it though since my kids seem to be rather healthy (knock on wood).

  7. CN says

    We use a temporal thermometer. You just run it across the child’s forehead.

    It makes a beeping sound as it goes. That seems to entertain our son and he is patient about it.

    We first saw this thermometer at the surgery center when our son had surgery. It is pretty accurate — good thing now that he is to squirmy for other means.

    For eye drops, we just attack.

    For ear drops, we make it a game. Put him on his side and give him kisses, count the ear drops in, more kisses, release. Works well.

  8. says

    You can put eye drops in the corner of a closed eye, and then have the child open his eye so the drops fall in. They don’t need to be put into an open eye. This comes from my friend who is an optometry tech, and has been for about 10 years.

    It is extremely rare for a parent to need to know their child’s temperature to the tenth of the degree. I mean, if the temperature is 102.9, and your doctor says, “Don’t come in unless it’s 103,” but you’re worried sick, you’re going to round up and go anyway, right? This being the case, I always use a digital thermometer in the armpit. You add a degree (so the normal axillary temperature is 97.6, or if you get a reading of 100.3 their temp is really 101.3…).

    It didn’t take me any time at all to learn to tell the difference between “warm,” “hot,” and “dangerous,” with my kids. I agree with you that a fever is a fever. If my armpit thermometer reads anything over 103, I’m going to call the doctor. I frankly don’t care enough about the difference between 103.1 and 103.2 to stick something in my kid’s butt. Perhaps there are certain illnesses where it’s necessary to know to that degree, but not (IMHO) for a normal, healthy kid.

    I also use a thermometer designed for fertility tracking, so it’s a bit more accurate, supposedly.

    I don’t give Tylenol for fevers unless the doctor tells me to give it. I figure that it’s better to give their bodies a chance to fight it off themselves. I also don’t take Tylenol for my own fevers, FWIW. Of course, I’m talking about fevers under 102 or so. 102 – 103 being the questionable area – and my decision depends on how the kid is feeling. Over 103, I’m on the phone getting further instructions from the ped.

  9. Parent Hacks Editor says

    Alex: I didn’t intend for my nonchalance about fevers to come off as callous. Amy put it better — I’m not concerned about the tenth-of-a-degree accuracy of most thermometers. I take fever as one indicator of whether or not to get the doctors involved.

  10. Paul says

    We use the forehead one but it’s not too accurate. We just recently started to us a more traditional probe type (electronic) and we hold it in the arm pit with the arm tight against the body. Seems to be more consistent and accurate. A combination of both makes us pretty comfortable that we know when to call the Doc!

  11. says

    I was told by my son’s ped, and my daughter’s (2 different ones) that the ear thermometers were nearly as accurate as rectal temps, and the readings come through more clearly and faster, plus, no fighting by a child. I’ve used ours on our daughter, who hates having her temperature taken, with very little fuss.

  12. says

    My ear thermometer never gives the same result twice so I can’t depend on it. I use a regular thermometer under the arm.

    And for eyedrops, we do what someone above suggested – have the child close their eye, put the drop in the corner, then open the eye. The drops run right into the eyes. I witnessed an ER doc do this when my 4 yo got glitter in his eye.

  13. Jill in Atlanta says

    I take temps under arm while I hug my sons. I had to do eyedrops for one of them at 6 weeks (!) for pink eye, and dropping the medication near the inner eye was good enough for our ped. Most of it rolled in when he blinked.

  14. says

    FWIW, I have been told by a pediatrician that we try to bring down children’s fevers for their comfort, not to avoid “frying their brain”.

    From webmd: “High fevers may make your child uncomfortable, but they rarely cause serious problems. There is no medical evidence that fevers from infection cause brain damage. The body limits a fever caused by infection from rising above 106 F. However, outside heat-such as from being in a car that is parked in the sun-can cause body temperature to rise above 107 F, and brain damage can occur.”

    Since learning this, I barely use a thermometer. I can tell when my kids have a fever, and if it is making them uncomfortable, we give them some medicine.

  15. says

    I use a temporal thermometer for my kids – at least I do now (since I just got it a couple of weeks ago). I’m not too concerned about the exact measurement of a fever myself, but on those rare occasions that I actually call the doctor’s office, they always want to know.

    For eyedrops, I haven’t used them much but when I have, I have waited until the kids were asleep to put them in. I just put a drop on the corner of their eye and then pry open the eyelid for a second to get the drop in.

  16. says

    The Vicks Baby Rectal Thermometer has a short stem to allay worries of how far to insert it. I haven’t used it myself, but have given it as a gift to new parents. It’s around US$10 in drugstores and online.

    We use the “eyedrop in the corner of a closed eye” method for everyone in the house.

  17. says

    We had a couple rounds of pinkeye around 13-15 months–good times! Here’s what ended up working:

    Sit with your legs straight out on a couch or a bed.

    Lay the toddler between your legs, head towards your crotch, face up.

    Gently use your legs to squeeze the toddler’s head while you hold both of their hands down with one of yours.

    Take a couple deep breaths, sing a nice song, etc.

    Place the drops at the inner corner of the eye–then say “ooh look!” or something like that so the kid opens her eyes…voila, the drops are in! (This part was per our ped, but the positioning we only worked out after a couple of rodeos.)

    For thermometers, it’s definitely worth the money to get the quick read kind that only takes 5-10 seconds! That makes it a much easier problem to solve, no matter where you’re taking it.

  18. says

    For any child still in diapers, I’ve found they don’t mind too much for me to use a rectal thermometer. I put them on the changing table and just act like it’s a diaper change. By the time they’re ready to squirm out of it, it’s done. It’s a quick-read (5 seconds or so) with the safety tip, and I apply a little KY jelly or vaseline before inserting it.

  19. KyrosMommy says

    Personally, I have found that strapping my son into his carseat works wonders to hold him still enough to take his temp. It’s a five point harness, so…
    And, for the eyedrops: most also come in an ointment cream that you can just rub on!

  20. says

    I’m with you on the thermometer, so in addition to the ear thermometer, I also have one disguised as a pacifier, which is awesome. There are also those forehead strips, which some daycares use. But personally, I find I can tell if she’s hot best with a kiss on the forehead. Old mommy trick…

  21. says

    As others have mentioned, we use an in the ear thermometer to gauge whether or not we need to pull out the rectal thermometer and call the Doctor. We take our 17 month olds temp in both ears, just to make sure we got a decent reading. Because it is quick, he is good about holding still for that amount of time (most of the time).

    For eye drops we immobilize him with hugs or wrapping him up and get the dropper as close to the eye as possible and try to be quick. I’m glad to read about the corner of the eye things, as that will help. No pink eye yet, though we have had several scares, and had so many ear infections he got tubes this summer.