October 17, 2023

Rethinking the standard 98.6 degree body temperature

By: Brita Belli

Editor's Note

Looking at the temperature measurements of more than 126,000 patients, researchers have found that the once-accepted standard body temperature of 98.6 degrees may not be an accurate measure, as reported in JAMA Internal Medicine on September 5.  

The 98.6 degree average was originally arrived at in 1868 by German physician Carl Wunderlich who took more than a million temperature measurements from 25,000 people. For the current study, the scientists analyzed oral temperature measurements from more than 126,000 adults seen at Stanford Health Care between 2008 and 2017. They also tracked patient information including height, weight, sex and age, as well as time of day. 

They found that the average oral temperature measured around 97.9 degrees, nearly a degree lower than the accepted number. The study also found that women run hotter than men, and older people are cooler than younger people. 

The scientists theorize that average body temperatures have dropped because humans are getting healthier. 


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