Scientists Want You To Know That 98.6 Degrees Is Not Really ‘Normal’ Body Temperature

Evie Fordham | Politics and Health Care Reporter

Scientists want the world to change how it thinks about fevers, starting with the idea that 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit is normal body temperature, and an August study used an iPhone app to gain a better understanding of fevers and the immune system.

Average normal body temperature is actually 97.7 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine published in August. Researchers used “smartphone crowdsourcing” through an app they made called Feverprints to get more than 11,000 temperature readings for the study, reported Wired.

More than 320 healthy adults used oral thermometers connected to the app for the study, which emphasized that normal body temperature varies among individuals and even depends on time of day.

“A temperature of 99 at six o’clock in the morning is very abnormal, whereas that same temperature at four o’clock in the afternoon can be totally normal,” one of the study’s authors, Jonathan Hausmann of Boston Children’s Hospital, told Wired.

Hausmann’s study drew several conclusions about body temperature: for example, women have higher temperatures than men, and it is natural for an individual’s body temperature to increase throughout the day, according to Wired.

The average person is not actually running a fever until their body temperature hits 99.5 degrees, the study concluded.

The benchmark of 98.6 degrees is “an antiquated number based on a flawed study” conducted in 1868, reported Wired. Researchers have been advocating for recognizing lower temperatures as normal since at least 1992, reported Real Clear Science.

“Decisions to admit patients to the hospital, perform invasive procedures, or provide antibiotics are still made using these outdated values,” stated the study’s abstract. “Smartphones and wearable technology may allow us to redefine normal and febrile temperatures for individuals of different demographics and to improve our recognition of febrile illnesses.” (RELATED: Could Trump‘s Drug Industry Critiques Be Working? Latest Drug Price Trends Are Good For Americans)

Hausmann hopes to continue to use smart phone data to learn more about how fevers vary depending on illness and whether it is better for patients to take fever-reducing drugs or suffer through, reported Wired.

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