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Vital Signs ( Temperature, Blood pressure, Pulse and Respiration)

Updated on May 8, 2016

What are Vital Signs?

Vital signs are signs used in finding out a condition of a patient for diagnostic purposes. Vital signs is the signs that indicate life.

A large number of patients walk into emergency rooms every day to get medical attention. As a patient approaches the emergency room, we take vital signs notwithstanding the urgency of the condition. Vital signs also helps in getting information on a patient's responds to treatment; a nurse on duty or a doctor takes it at interval.

Example of Vital Signs

1. Temperature.
2. Blood pressure.
3. Pulse.
4. Respiration.


Temperature is the degree of coldness and hotness of the body. It is very important to understand that the rise and drop of body temperature is an indication that our body is undergoing some certain condition; it might be according to an illness or a disease condition, being tired and wellbeing. Your body temperature may rise and drop several times in the day as a response to the activities you are doing at the time.

The normal body temperature in a healthy person is 37.0°C (98.6° F) and any deviation from the normal temperature of the body may be due to some changes in the body system or activities. It might be abnormal due to fever (high temperature) or hypothermia (low temperature). When body temperature rises about one degree or more above the normal temperature, which is 37.0°C or 98.6° F, then it is a fever while hypothermia is the condition where the temperature is lower than normal body temperature.


The instrument for measuring temperature is called a thermometer; thermometer is an instrument with a graduated glass tube and a bulb containing mercury or alcohol that rises in the tube when the temperature increases.

Temperature can be taken at different part of the body; it can be taken orally, at the axilla, rectally, by ear, and by skin.

Temperature is being measured through the mouth using either the classic glass thermometer, or the digital thermometer that use an electronic probe to measure body temperature.

Temperatures can also be taken rectally using a glass or digital thermometer but the rate is always higher when taken by mouth, it is always 0.5 to 0.7 degrees F.

Temperatures can be taken at the axilla (under the arm) using a thermometer. It is lower than the one taken by mouth. Temperatures taken by at the axilla is likely to be 0.3 to 0.4 degrees F.

By ear
There is certain thermometer that measures the temperature of the eardrum, which shows the body's main temperature.

By skin.
Temperature can be taken by skin on the forehead.

Material used for carrying out a temperature test.
1. Two gallipot, one containing wet swab and the other containing dry swab.
2. A flannel for cleaning hand.
3. A thermometer.

Taking the temperature


Take the try to the patient’s bedside and explain what you want to do to the patient, and then clean the patient's axilla with the dry swab and the thermometer with the wet swab after which you clean with the dry swab also. Place the thermometer at the axilla and read for 5 minutes then chart the result.


Blood pressure is the pressure exerted by the blood against the walls of blood vessels. The pressure depends on the strength of the heartbeat, thickness, and volume of the blood, the elasticity of the artery walls, and general health.

The blood pressure of a patient is checked to know the rate at which their heart pumps blood.

Material used is:
1. Sphygmomanometer.
2. A stethoscope.


You explain the procedure to the patient after which you place him or her in a comfortable position with their elbow facing forward. Then wrap the cuff around the patient's arm, place your finger at the patient's elbow to feel a pulsation after which you place the diaphragm on the area at which you felt the pulse. Afterward tighten the valve and start to flip until it gets to 200 on the mercury, then open the valve slowly until you hear the first sound known as systolic, continue slowly until the sound fades to get the diastolic. After this process unwrap the cuff and record the result in the format= 120/80 mmHg, which is also the normal value of a person’s heart rate.

Taking a pulse


Pulse is the regular expansion and contraction of an artery, caused by the heart pumping blood through the body. We feel a Pulse with two fingers through a redial artery that is near the surface. Such as the one in the wrist on the same side as the thumb. The normal pulse rate in adult is 60-80 while in children is 120-140. Pulse is being read for 1 minute and before counting, you should observe the rate, rhythm, volume, and tension in order to get an accurate result then record.


Respiration is the act of breathing air in and out. It is
The chemical and physical process in which oxygen is delivered to tissues or cells in an organism and carbon dioxide and water are given off.
Respiration rate is measured to determine the number of times per minute a person breathes. Changes in person's respiration rate may be a sign of a more serious condition, or can be a sign of too much stress.

Respiration taking


Telling a patient you want to measure their breathing will cause them to change the way in which they breathe intentionally, thereby causing irregular or shallow breathing, which will be difficult to get an accurate result. The respiration rate in an adult is 12-18 breathe par minute.

It is best to take the respiration reading right after taking the pulse, in this way you will get a correct result since the patient is relaxed and breathing normally. When counting the breathing, focus on the patient's chest. When the heart rises and falls you count as one, you continue like this for one minute, record your result, and wash your hands.

The table below shows the vital signs and their normal value.

(click column header to sort results)
Vital signs  
Normal Value  
37.0°C (98.6-99.1 F)
Blood pressure
60-100 beat per minute
12-18 Breath per minute


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