98.6 Degrees Fahrenheit Is Not the Average Body Temperature, It Declines With Age

Not as Average as You Think

It used to be that when I got sick, a temperature reading of 98.6°F was enough to persuade me that I didn't have anything serious. But a recent article in the New York Times says that 98.6 isn't so average after all. Suddenly what I thought was my safe zone is just slightly off.

Although resting body temperatures vary between individuals, a study found that on average it's 98.2°F — not 98.6 as once believed. The results of the study also show that body temperatures increase over the course of the day.

This seems pretty minor, I mean what's a few tenths of a degree? Not much, until you consider that with every decade our body temperature declines, as well. This becomes even more of an issue among the elderly. A study confirms that many nursing-home patients with serious infections had temperatures below 101°F, which is usually where concern comes in relation to temperature reading. And their temperatures remained below 101°F even though they had an increase of 2.4 degrees or more, which can be indicative of a serious fever.

In light of these new findings it seems like a good idea to check your temperature on a series of "well" days. That way, you have a sense of what your average body temperature, which can be used as a gauge to measure yourself against when you're sick. I know I will definitely be doing this.

Beyond that, I think this article is also a good example that regardless of what a measuring instrument may say or not say about your health, it's good to listen to your body. If you feel like there's something serious going on, never hesitate to call your doctor.

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