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Body temperature basics: Facts and myths debunked

Body temperature basics: Facts and myths debunked Body temperature basics (Photo: Freepik)

Body temperature is an important indicator that can be life-saving. It's worth knowing about dangerous ways not to reduce elevated body temperature, according to the "Take care of yourself" medical community website.

What is considered normal body temperature

Normal body temperature is not a universal indicator; it can vary. According to some data, the range of 36.1°C-37.2°C is considered normal. However, many factors can influence this, such as age, time of day, individual physiological characteristics, infection, and more.

For example, early in the morning, body temperature is usually lower. And for a newborn, it's normal to have a temperature between 36.5°C and 37.5°C.

Changes in body temperature can be categorized as:

  • Subnormal - 35-36°C. Typical for people with weakened immunity, older individuals, etc.
  • Subfebrile (mild) - an increase of no more than 1°C above the maximum "normal" temperature
  • Febrile (moderate) - an increase of 1-2°C
  • Pyretic or high - rising to 38°C
  • Hyperpyretic (very high) - an increase of more than 3°C compared to the maximum normal value

Do you need to "lower" elevated body temperature

When the thermometer readings show an increase, it can be unpleasant.

Pediatrician Lydia Babych explained that body temperature is not the only factor that helps us fight infections. And not the most important one.

The doctor notes that sometimes, even with an infection present, temperature may not rise. This doesn't mean that the body isn't fighting the virus or bacteria. Before deciding whether to reduce the temperature or not, it's important to understand the consequences of your actions or their absence.

The dangers of high temperature Fearing to "burn up" from temperature is mostly a myth, with rare exceptions.

Of course, there is such a thing as malignant hyperthermia. This can occur, for example, with severe brain injuries. Such risks apply to a child who has experienced a difficult birth trauma.

However, if a healthy child catches a virus and has a fever, in most cases, their life is not threatened.

A temperature increase to 42 degrees Celsius and above is indeed a very dangerous situation. However, this is rare. Your child will not have such a temperature due to a viral infection. This could happen if you leave a child in a car in hot weather.

How to measure temperature correctly

The most accurate thermometer is mercury-based. It's better to risk it being breakable than to buy an electronic one.

Studies on this issue were conducted many years ago and showed that there is no significant difference in accuracy between electronic and mercury thermometers.

Similarly, there is no clinical necessity to use a mercury thermometer for more than 3 minutes.

Currently, more and more countries are phasing out mercury thermometers due to their hazards, and Ukraine is no exception. In 2023, we finally joined the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

The convention provides for a phased withdrawal from the use of mercury:

  • Further extraction is prohibited
  • Production, export, and import of many products containing mercury are banned (thermometers and pressure measuring devices, certain types of batteries and fluorescent lamps, barometers, switches, relays, and even cosmetics)

Types of thermometers

In fact, there are many types of thermometers, and their accuracy can also vary:

  • Ear thermometers measure the temperature in the ear. They're fairly fast devices, but they may not be suitable for children with narrow ear canals.
  • Axillary or oral thermometers - the most common and accurate devices.
  • Non-contact thermometers - measure body temperature without skin contact. Convenient, but their accuracy is questionable.
  • Strip thermometers - resemble a strip applied to the forehead. They are considered unreliable in their readings.

Earlier, we reported on the dangers of low body temperature.

This material is for informational purposes only and should not be used for medical diagnosis or self-treatment. Our goal is to provide readers with accurate information about symptoms, causes, and methods of detecting diseases. RBС-Ukraine is not responsible for any diagnoses that readers may make based on materials from the resource. We do not recommend self-treatment and advise consulting a doctor in case of any health concerns.