A Cup of Coffee – What Is A Normal Body Temperature?

Welcome back! Last week, we talked about Current Events and Breathing Meditation. If you missed that blog and would like to catch up, click HERE.

This week, we are going to talk about body temperature. Specifically, what is considered “normal” and are we starting to change our views on that?

My entire life, I’ve never had a fever. At least not one that my doctor would recognize as such. My body temperature runs between 96.9 and 97.1. At 99.0 I feel like my head is going to explode and I’m suffering. Body aches, burning up, you know the feeling. Yet, when I show up at urgent care, I’m told that I’m not sick because my body temperature isn’t 101 or higher.

My dad, my daughter, and various other family members, all have this same body temperature. We’ve been told it’s due to allergies, due to a weak immune system, due to our thyroids (labs are always normal), and due to genetics, but at no time has a doctor said, “Oh, we are all different, and that’s just your baseline…and yes, at 99 degrees you are sick“. Why is that?

Harvard Medical School acknowledges that the elderly have a low baseline temperature, and in fact, they write that the average body temperature in adults has dropped by one degree since the average temperature of 98.6 was established 150 years ago.

They write, “Normal body temperature is not a single number, but rather a range of temperatures. The average normal body temperature is most often said to be 98.6° F (37° C). This may have been correct when it was first determined 150 years ago. But our bodies have changed. Recent research suggests that the average adult body temperature is about one degree lower, 97.5° F (36.4° C). Older adults often have an even lower body temperature without it indicating any health problems“.

While a low temperature in the elderly is considered normal, a temperature of 99 degrees should be taken very seriously. Harvard Medical School continues, “A fever of 99° F, which doesn’t sound high, can be serious in an older person whose normal baseline temperature is below 97° F“. This is important information to have if you care for an elder heart, or your family member is in a facility. Make sure they know that if your loved one has a temperature of 99 degrees with a baseline of 97 degrees, you want them seen by a doctor.

Stanford medicine wrote an interesting article on this topic. “Our temperature’s not what people think it is,” said Julie Parsonnet, MD, professor of medicine and of health research and policy. “What everybody grew up learning, which is that our normal temperature is 98.6, is wrong.

That standard of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit was made famous by German physician Carl Reinhold August Wunderlich, who published the figure in a book in 1868. Modern studies, however, have called that number into question, suggesting that it’s too high. A recent study, for example, found the average temperature of 25,000 British patients to be 97.9 F“. 

In a study published today in eLife, Parsonnet and her colleagues explore body temperature trends and conclude that temperature changes since the time of Wunderlich reflect a true historical pattern, rather than measurement errors or biases. Parsonnet, who holds the George DeForest Barnett Professorship, is the senior author. Myroslava Protsiv, a former Stanford research scientist who is now at the Karolinska Institute, is the lead author”.

The researchers propose that the decrease in body temperature is the result of changes in our environment over the past 200 years, which have in turn driven physiological changes“. 

Physiologically, we’re just different from what we were in the past,” Parsonnet said. “The environment that we’re living in has changed, including the temperature in our homes, our contact with microorganisms and the food that we have access to. All these things mean that although we think of human beings as if we’re monomorphic and have been the same for all of human evolution, we’re not the same. We’re actually changing physiologically.”  

The Infectious Diseases Society of America acknowledges that “the definition of fever is arbitrary” but likewise goes on to cite various definitions, including 1) an oral temperature of 100 or greater, 2) repeated oral temperatures of 99 degrees or greater, and 3) an increase in temperature of more than 2 degrees over the patient’s baseline“.

Thermometers can muck up your readings even further. While it’s agreed that rectal thermometers get the most accurate readings, the peripheral thermometers don’t perform as well. The NCBI reports, “Peripheral thermometers do not have clinically acceptable accuracy and should not be used when accurate measurement of body temperature will influence clinical decisions“. Oral thermometers, tympanic or ear thermometers, or forehead thermometers, are more convenient but may yield lower readings.

Of note to this blogger, and of interest to dog owners, we took our Boston Terrier to the vet this week and they were able to scan his microchip for an accurate temperature, as opposed to getting one the old fashioned way. Our dog was very pleased with the service and wanted us to write a note of thanks to the powers that be.

My research this week led me to the following conclusions: 1. Having a low body temperature is actually normal. 2. When I have a fever of 99.0 and feel awful, it is the equivalent to having a 101.0-degree fever in someone whose baseline is 98.6. 3. Rectal thermometers are the most accurate. 4. I’d rather have a microchip.

If you found this blog to be informative or just a relaxing way to waste time, please do me a favor and share it on your Facebook page? To share, just click on the Facebook icon located right below this paragraph. Much appreciated!

4 Comments


  1. Avatar
    Author

    Reposted from Oregon City Chit Chat

    Ronnie Danger Good read. Interesting topic. Thank you for sharing.

    Linda Tate Ronnie Danger you’re welcome, thank you for reading!

    Lisa Epler-Smith I’ve always wondered about this as my normal temp is 97.2 so when I get to 99 it should be an active temp but my do tor doesn’t support that.

    Travis Lacey My normal is 97.3°, so a 99° is a fever and I have the symptoms of it too. I tell my doctor and thankfully they have been able to hear me.
    Hide or report this

    Bobby Ghaheri Travis Lacey 99 still isn’t a fever. 101.5 or higher is a fever.

    Matt Ramage Bobby Ghaheri well according to Wunderlich’s 1868 research, which is the current baseline for body temp and fever, a temp of 100.4 constitutes a fever. But that is predicated on a normal body temp of 98.6. The article notes that regular body temp has …See More

    Bobby Ghaheri Matt Ramage I’m just saying from a doctor’s viewpoint, we don’t count your set point. It’s 101.5 or it’s not a fever.

    Madi Luciano Bobby Ghaheri thank you! This is nice to hear from a doctors stand point that is well known in this area. Ive always wondered truly what the temp is to be fevered. Ive always been told 100.5.

    Bobby Ghaheri Madi Luciano some doctors call 100.5 a “low grade fever” but there’s not really wide acceptance of that.

    Linda Tate Bobby Ghaheri there’s new research on this…you should check into it, especially if you treat the elderly.

    Bobby Ghaheri Linda Tate I’m aware of the research. It’s still not consensus and 101.5 is still used. I do know that some geriatricians will adopt a lower temp as fever, but that’s more specialized and isn’t universal in the elderly.

    Matt Ramage Bobby Ghaheri well that’s unfortunate, because each patient is different.

    Karyn Koopman 97.3 normal and crazy that when I feel sick my temp goes down

    Mellissa Richwine Thank you for sharing! Anytime I’ve told someone my normal temperature is lower, they act like that’s impossible.

    Wendy Marshall Mine is low. I noticed when I started monitoring it for covid. I’m 56. I recall it was 98.6 when I was a kid. However, that memory may be skewed because they only took it when we were sick.

    Kim Campbell I wish I could find a thermometer. 🙁

    Dawn Anewday I wish I could find one that works accurately. I have 3 and they all read differently. This electronic stuff is a joke from China.

    Kim Campbell Dawn Anewday I agree! I ordered a new one and it didn’t work the day I got it. I got a refund, but geez, I just want a thermometer!!

    Marci Fox Agreed! I just want an old fashioned glass one but everything is digital. If you do find a glass one they are non mercury and don’t get good reviews. 🤷🏻‍♀️

    Rosana Marie Young
    Rosana Marie Young They think they know everything but so many are so arrogant and stupid

    David Arnett Mine is usually 96.8 so when I get a fever of 100 I’m pretty damn sick

    Beverly Charriere Mason David Arnett me too!

    Craig Gillespie My normal hovers around 97. I feel awful at 100.

    Julie Hollister Mine is 96.4

    Mary Coslett Cornelius Glad I’m not the only one in the 96-97 range. I read that 95 is too low.

    Beverly Charriere Mason My normal temp is ALWAYS 96.8 so when I run 99-100 I am very sick but the doctor always says that it’s fine unless I go over 102. I always consider it having a fever if it’s raised 3 or more degrees than normal.

    Jeff Fields My normal is 97.3.

    Tami Hawk 97.3 is my normal

    Gwendolyn Rose My basal temp is a degree lower. If I run a temp at 98.6 I have a mild fever.

  2. Avatar
    Author

    Reposted from Molalla Now:

    Deb Harman Mine is Typically 96.8, rather than 98.6.

    Melinda J. Lombard Mine is 97.2

    Julie Allen Mine is 97 , and at 99* I feel sick , that is a fever for me ,

    Jennifer BrooksMomma Carry a note from the doc. I do for my daughter who is 96.6 all day long.

    Amy Larson I run at 97.4, the dr’s always ask me.

    Debbie Willick Loving Typically mine runs 97.2-4

    Debbie Willick Loving Along with a “low” blood pressure, they always double check it.

    Sherry Mulhern I run low. 97’s. I feel feverish at 99 for sure.

    Amy Rose Ford Mine is 96.8…. and my dr put notes in my file, but said low baselines are very normal.
    A week after surgery, when my temp went up to 99.0 she told me to go to the er… the triage nurse acted like I was wasting his time, but the drs and er nurses took it serious and i spent a week in the hospital on iv antibiotics… knowing my baseline temp and telling my Dr may have saved my life…

    Danielle Schram Trapp My temp is only a fuzz lower than ‘normal’ but my BP is normally fairly low so I get concerned when I’m high for me but it still falls under normal for charts.

    Jakye Rhoades Orr Same concept with some labs. Thyroid levels for example. Being on the “low end of normal” I was denied thyroid medication as I watched my hair continue to thin, energy low, and emotions high. Finally a second doctor started a low dose. The almost immediatly resulting improvements were impossible to deny. So, “normal” for one person is “too low” for another. It’s why we don’t all need the same dosages of meds, etc. Know your body. Find a doctor who listens.

  3. Avatar
    Author

    Reposted from Canby Now:

    Pat Frank I am almost always 97. something. 98.6 would feel feverish to me too.

    Dena Brehmer I’m consistently at 97, once in awhile even at 96.8, so yes 98.6 is a fever for me.

    Nichole Blair Women’s temperatures change throughout the month during different parts of their cycle. Natural fertility methods use this to track fertility to both naturally avoid pregnancy and conceive! It’s all very fascinating!

    Heidi Brown https://www.health.harvard.edu/…/time-to-redefine…
    Hide or report this
    Time to redefine normal body temperature? – Harvard Health Blog
    HEALTH.HARVARD.EDU
    Time to redefine normal body temperature? – Harvard Health Blog
    Time to redefine normal body temperature? – Harvard Health Blog

    Heidi Brown Also if you read the instructions on thermometers some of them say to +/- a degree depending on how you take the temp.

    Ki Seh Brown I’m a consistent 97.6.

    Vickie Ainsworth Finley Mine is almost always 97.5

    Jessica Wheeler Mine is usually 97.9-98.1

Leave a Reply

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