Author Topic: Normal body temperature?  (Read 136 times)

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Offline bachfiend

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Normal body temperature?
« on: January 18, 2020, 09:34:40 PM »
It’s been a matter of considerable perplexity, that although I learned in medical school back in the ‘70s that the normal oral temperature is 36.6 to 37.2 degrees Celsius (with normal daily variation during the day - lower in the morning - and during the menstrual cycle in women - higher around ovulation), my oral temperature rarely reaches 36.6 degrees Celsius (unless I’m ill), and usually is below 36 degrees, of the order of 35.7 or so.

There is a recent study suggesting that normal body temperatures have been dropping for 150 years, due to the elimination of chronic infections and lower metabolic rates:

https://elifesciences.org/articles/49555

[It’s an interesting study, because the link also lists the peer reviewers, their comments, and the authors’ responses.  Peer review is often regarded as being ‘sacred,’ despite usually being completely opaque.]

Normal body temperature is no longer 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

I wonder if this might be one reason (a very minor one) for the increasing incidence of obesity?  Lower metabolic rate, lower requirements for food, but recommendations for required calorie intake staying the same?  There are obviously more important reasons.

I thought that if anyone finds it interesting enough to comment, they might also report their early morning oral temperature and their age (obviously there won’t be enough to test the hypothesis that body temperatures are dropping, but it might be enough to indicate a trend).
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Offline The Latinist

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Re: Normal body temperature?
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2020, 09:50:05 PM »
My typical body temperature when healthy is about 96.7ºF (35.9ºC), and is not infrequently lower. If my temperature reaches 98.6ºF (37ºC), I feel feverish. When I have the a serious infection I might reach 100.2ºF (37.8ºC).  The highest temperature I can ever remember having as an adult was 100.8ºF (38.2ºC) when I was laid up in bed with N1H1 'swine' flu.

Of course whenever I go to the doctor feeling truly miserable and my temperature is 98.7º or something, they dismiss the idea that I have a fever.  It does little good to tell them that my temperature is fully two degrees higher than normal.
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Offline bachfiend

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Re: Normal body temperature?
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2020, 10:04:47 PM »
My typical body temperature when healthy is about 96.7ºF (35.9ºC), and is not infrequently lower. If my temperature reaches 98.6ºF (37ºC), I feel feverish. When I have the a serious infection I might reach 100.2ºF (37.8ºC).  The highest temperature I can ever remember having as an adult was 100.8ºF (38.2ºC) when I was laid up in bed with N1H1 'swine' flu.

Of course whenever I go to the doctor feeling truly miserable and my temperature is 98.7º or something, they dismiss the idea that I have a fever.  It does little good to tell them that my temperature is fully two degrees higher than normal.

I once commented to my own doctor in the course of a routine visit that my oral temperature is lower than ‘normal.’  He checked it using one of those electronic ear thermometers, and confirmed it.  He wasn’t concerned.

There’s a supposed condition ‘Wilson’s syndrome’ (not to be confused with Wilson’s disease, which is an inherited defect in copper metabolism), in which there’s defective conversion of the thyroid hormone T3 into the more active T4 in the peripheral tissues, producing relative hypothyroidism, not detectable by measuring blood T4 levels, but which is indicated by a lower body temperature (and some other very non-specific symptoms).  Endocrinologists doubt that it exists.  They’re almost certainly right.  Wilson seems to have been fooled by the lower normal body temperature.
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Offline The Latinist

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Re: Normal body temperature?
« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2020, 10:06:51 PM »
I'm not concerned about my low body temperature; I'm more concerned that my doctors may miss a diagnosis because they dismiss a fever as 'normal.'
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Offline bachfiend

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Re: Normal body temperature?
« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2020, 10:57:28 PM »
I'm not concerned about my low body temperature; I'm more concerned that my doctors may miss a diagnosis because they dismiss a fever as 'normal.'

Or if you die under mysterious circumstances, forensic investigators might think you died earlier.  Which was part of the plot of a novel:

https://www.amazon.com.au/Death-High-Floor-Robert-Tarza-ebook/dp/B00CD8AFOI/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Death+on+a+high+floor&qid=1579405601&s=books&sr=1-1

The murdered attorney had complained that his doctor didn’t take his ‘flu seriously, because his body temperature was always much lower than normal, and a ‘normal’ temperature was a fever for him.

After that morbid diversion, I don’t think that a doctor would dismiss illness on the basis of a ‘normal’ body temperature.  The usual first question my doctor asks me is ‘how do you feel today?’
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Offline daniel1948

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Re: Normal body temperature?
« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2020, 10:41:54 AM »
Not absolutely first thing in the morning, as I've had my morning cup of decaf and I've been up for about an hour, but this morning my temperature taken with an infrared ear thermometer is 96.5 F in my right ear and 95.5 in my left ear. It varies by a few tenths of a degree if I take it several times in rapid succession. If I remember (which is unlikely) I'll take it again this evening.

I wonder if ambient temperature makes a difference. It's 77 F in my house now, which is about as cool as it ever gets.

I wouldn't blame the obesity epidemic on lower body temperature since we already have a perfectly good explanation in the large number of calories consumed by people these days and the sedentary lifestyle of most people.
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Offline bachfiend

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Re: Normal body temperature?
« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2020, 01:53:43 PM »
Not absolutely first thing in the morning, as I've had my morning cup of decaf and I've been up for about an hour, but this morning my temperature taken with an infrared ear thermometer is 96.5 F in my right ear and 95.5 in my left ear. It varies by a few tenths of a degree if I take it several times in rapid succession. If I remember (which is unlikely) I'll take it again this evening.

I wonder if ambient temperature makes a difference. It's 77 F in my house now, which is about as cool as it ever gets.

I wouldn't blame the obesity epidemic on lower body temperature since we already have a perfectly good explanation in the large number of calories consumed by people these days and the sedentary lifestyle of most people.

One of the factors the authors did mention was the availability of air conditioning as being one reason for the decline in normal body temperatures.  If the outside temperature is lower, then the body temperature is also lower, so the body doesn’t try to run body temperature at a set temperature (which varies throughout the day anyway).
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Offline Guillermo

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Re: Normal body temperature?
« Reply #7 on: January 20, 2020, 07:59:58 AM »
I'm not concerned about my low body temperature; I'm more concerned that my doctors may miss a diagnosis because they dismiss a fever as 'normal.'
I don't think fever is a symptom that can identify some illness as it is likely present in most infections. A doctor's main concern with fevers is longevity and threshold. Regardless of how ill you feel, if your fever is below 39, there is no concern that the fever will cause problems. You might have an infection, but if the fever is low, your body is working at the infection and a doctor would likely not help in any way. So rather than spending resources finding out about an infection that you would likely recover from, might as well dismiss you and come back if you start feeling worse, or other symptoms show up.
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Offline bachfiend

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Re: Normal body temperature?
« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2020, 03:32:41 PM »
I'm not concerned about my low body temperature; I'm more concerned that my doctors may miss a diagnosis because they dismiss a fever as 'normal.'
I don't think fever is a symptom that can identify some illness as it is likely present in most infections. A doctor's main concern with fevers is longevity and threshold. Regardless of how ill you feel, if your fever is below 39, there is no concern that the fever will cause problems. You might have an infection, but if the fever is low, your body is working at the infection and a doctor would likely not help in any way. So rather than spending resources finding out about an infection that you would likely recover from, might as well dismiss you and come back if you start feeling worse, or other symptoms show up.

A person can be very sick, and not have a fever:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4056432/

With sepsis, having a low body temperature is a very serious prognostic indicator of increased mortality.

The first assessment a doctor should take of a patient is whether the person looks sick rather than whether the person has a fever.  ‘Looking sick’ has many indicators, including the lack of ability to complain about one’s condition.  A paediatrician once told me the story about being asked to see two children in Emergency; one was screaming the place down with otitis media, the other was lying quietly and apathetically.  The instinctive reaction would be to deal with the otitis media first, but the correct response would be to look at the very sick apathetic child with the bacterial meningitis first.
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Offline AQB24712

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Re: Normal body temperature?
« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2020, 03:36:33 PM »
I just had a checkemup this morning, and my temperature as taken with the forehead-swipe thing was 96.9.  Not unusual for me.  Just call me Stone Cold AQB.
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Offline bachfiend

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Re: Normal body temperature?
« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2020, 05:29:37 PM »
I just had a checkemup this morning, and my temperature as taken with the forehead-swipe thing was 96.9.  Not unusual for me.  Just call me Stone Cold AQB.

It seems as though my requesting other members to record their oral temperatures first thing in the morning, also giving their ages, isn’t working.  Different methods and different times of recording body temperatures will give different results.

Whenever I go to have the influenza immunisation, the person giving me the injection never takes my temperature to see if I’m fit to have the injection, just asks how I feel. 

Body temperature is a very overrated sign or symptom, particularly since the normal accepted for years appears to be incorrect.
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Offline arthwollipot

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Re: Normal body temperature?
« Reply #11 on: January 20, 2020, 07:40:15 PM »
I understand that there are some who don't consider this to be a good source, but this came up in this week's New Scientist:

Humans are cooling down so average body temperature is no longer 37°C

Quote
Everybody knows that the average human body temperature is 37°C – but everybody is wrong. It turns out that the bodies of people in the US have been cooling since the 1860s.

Physicians who have studied body temperature have known for decades that 37°C was too high, says Julie Parsonnet at Stanford University in California. “But they’ve always thought that it was just measurement error in the past, not because temperature had actually dropped.”

To find out what really happened, Parsonnet and her team combined three data sets. The first covered 23,710 Union Army veterans from the American Civil War, whose temperatures were measured between 1860 and 1940. “It took me a long time to find a database back to the 19th century that had temperature in it,” says Parsonnet. The other data sets spanned 1971 to 1975 and 2007 to 2017. In total, the team analysed 677,423 temperature measurements.

On average, American body temperature has declined by 0.03°C per decade. Men born in the early 19th century had body temperatures 0.59°C higher than men today. The data for women doesn’t go as far back, but their body temperature has dropped 0.32°C since the 1890s. That means average body temperature today is about 36.6°C, not 37°C as widely thought.
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Offline bachfiend

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Re: Normal body temperature?
« Reply #12 on: January 20, 2020, 07:59:23 PM »
I understand that there are some who don't consider this to be a good source, but this came up in this week's New Scientist:

Humans are cooling down so average body temperature is no longer 37°C

Quote
Everybody knows that the average human body temperature is 37°C – but everybody is wrong. It turns out that the bodies of people in the US have been cooling since the 1860s.

Physicians who have studied body temperature have known for decades that 37°C was too high, says Julie Parsonnet at Stanford University in California. “But they’ve always thought that it was just measurement error in the past, not because temperature had actually dropped.”

To find out what really happened, Parsonnet and her team combined three data sets. The first covered 23,710 Union Army veterans from the American Civil War, whose temperatures were measured between 1860 and 1940. “It took me a long time to find a database back to the 19th century that had temperature in it,” says Parsonnet. The other data sets spanned 1971 to 1975 and 2007 to 2017. In total, the team analysed 677,423 temperature measurements.

On average, American body temperature has declined by 0.03°C per decade. Men born in the early 19th century had body temperatures 0.59°C higher than men today. The data for women doesn’t go as far back, but their body temperature has dropped 0.32°C since the 1890s. That means average body temperature today is about 36.6°C, not 37°C as widely thought.

The paper in the BMJ seems good, and very interesting.  I’m keeping a copy of it to read later. 

Not only is the normal temperature lower than the 36.6-37.2 degrees Celsius I was taught in medical school in the ‘70s, but having a higher temperature is associated with increased mortality and a lower life expectancy.
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