skip to Main Content
Thermometer reading high temperature

We all recognize 98.6 degrees F as our normal body temperature, but that number is far from exact. In fact, it’s just an average — established in 1868 by German doctor Carl Wunderlich, who took thousands of temperature readings from participants’ armpits with a cumbersome, footlong mercury thermometer that required up to 20 minutes to register.

Multiple recent studies seek to pinpoint the norm and have raised numerous other questions along the way. Several suggest 98.6 degrees F is too high. For instance, a 1992 U.S. Army–funded report found a mean body temperature of 98.2 degrees F, while a 2018 study using smartphones to record 5,038 oral temperatures suggested 97.7 degrees F. A 2002 meta review of 20 studies reaffirmed that our temps differ when taken in the mouth, ear, armpit, or rectum. But there are some caveats to all these readings:

Daily Flux

Your temperature fluctuates during the day, hitting a low between 3 and 5 a.m. and a peak between 4 and 6 p.m. The difference can be 1 degree F or more, depending on the individual.

Men and Women

The smartphone-based study found that men’s mean temperature was 0.18 degrees F lower than women’s. And normal body temperature decreases slightly as we age.

Fever Temperature

Wunderlich’s research 150 years ago fixed 100.4 degrees F as the flare-up of fever, a novel scientific marker for doctors to determine the onset of illnesses. The Army study determined that fever should be defined as 98.6 degrees F in the morning and 99.9 degrees F in the evening — but again taking into account bioindividuality.

Thoughts to share?

This Post Has 0 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

City and state are only displayed in our print magazine if your comment is chosen for publication.

ADVERTISEMENT

More Like This

handwashing-soap-water
By Pamela Weintraub
Following the same basic hygiene and and lifestyle tips to prevent the flu can also help in protecting yourself against COVID-19.
By Experience Life Staff
Practical suggestions for giving your immune system a fighting chance this winter.
An illustration of fish, mushrooms, spinach, and a bottle of oil.
By Laine Bergeson Becco, FMCHC
Here are the foods to embrace — and avoid — if you’re trying to fend off the flu this season.
Back To Top