Cooling off? Study suggests 98.6 is no longer average body temperature

National News

(WHTM) — Kristen Thrush is a mom to seven kids.

But one of her children, 18-year-old Rachel, has never had a “normal” body temperature. She never seems to spike above 99, even when she is fighting an infection. Her typical body temperature usually rests around 97 degrees.

“We’ve had her take it two or three times sometimes. ‘You didn’t have it under your tongue the right way,'” Thrush said.

The 18-year-old might not be all that different, though. The standard body temperature of 98.6 was set in 1871 by a German doctor. More recent research by Stanford University, however, suggests that since then, humans have cooled off a bit, settling instead around 97.5.

The study speculates that multiple factors, such as better hygiene and medical care, could have contributed to the drop in temperature.

This is something Dr. Joan Thode of Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health Physicians Roseville Pediatrics hears often.

“It’s not uncommon for us to hear, ‘My kid is a 97, so a 99 is a fever for them,'” Thode said.

But Thode warns that more research is needed to change the medical definition of a fever, which is 100.4 for infants and 100.8 for older children and adults.

She suggests that instead of focusing on a number, you should focus on how your child is feeling.

“If your child is looking sick and acting sick, they’re probably sick,” Thode said.

Thode added that you should keep your kids home accordingly. Just because their temperature doesn’t reach a fever threshold, doesn’t mean they aren’t contagious.

“If they’re below that threshold number-wise but they look kind of drawn and peaked, clearly not feeling well, then I still put them in a category that they should be home until they bounce back,” Thode said.

Thrush said it took years to accept that a fever in her daughter is not the same as a fever in her other children. The study, she said, was validation.

“It made us think like, okay, we’re not crazy,” Thrush said.

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