Vital Signs: The Four Measurements

Vital SignsVital signs are measurements of the body’s basic functions.

There are four main vital signs that are routinely measured by health professionals.

These include:

Health professionals measure these four signs to check a person’s level of physical functioning.

A vital signs chart is used to document the measurements and compare norms.

Normal ranges of vital signs vary according to a person’s age, gender, weight, fitness level and health.

How to Take Vital Signs


Body Temperature

Body temperature is measured by placing a thermometer under the tongue or armpit or in the anus.

Special thermometers can measure body temperature on the skin or in the ear canal.

Normal body temperature for a person in good health is about 98.6 on average, but body temperature in a healthy person can range from 97.8 to 99.1 degrees Fahrenheit or slightly higher.

A body temperature that is lower than this range may indicate hypothermia, while a higher body temperature can indicate a fever (which may mean that there is an infection or other illness present).

Body temperature can vary in a healthy person if they have just had a hot or cold drink, have been exercising or have recently been in a hot or cold environment.


Respiratory Rate

Respiratory rate is generally measured as the number of breaths a person takes in one minute.

Normal respiratory rate in a healthy adult is about 12 to 20 breaths per minute but can vary if a person is experiencing drug overdose, heart failure and other conditions.

Respiratory rate is generally measured simply by counting the number of breaths that occur within a minute.


Pulse Rate

Pulse RatePulse rate is the number of times a person’s heart beats in one minute.

A person’s pulse rate is lower when they are at rest and increases when a person is active or exercising.

A normal pulse rate for a healthy adult is about 60 to 80 beats per minute.

The pulse rate can be measured by pressing down two fingers on the arteries in the neck or wrists while counting the number of beats per minute.

A faster pulse rate can indicate health problems such as infection, dehydration, anxiety or a heart condition.

A slower pulse rate can indicate signs of a heart condition but is also common for people who exercise a lot or those who are on certain medications.


Blood Pressure

Blood PressureBlood pressure is the amount of force or pressure of your blood against your artery walls.

Blood pressure is expressed in the form of two numbers, your systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Systolic blood pressure is the amount of pressure when the heart beats.

Diastolic blood pressure is the amount of pressure when the heart rests between beats.

Normal blood pressure is 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).

Blood pressure can be measured with an aneroid or digital monitor.

High blood pressure or hypertension (140/90 mm Hg or above) while a person is resting increases risk of heart failure, atherosclerosis, and stroke.



Respiratory Assessment

Parts of a Stethoscope


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