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Body temperature: don't look for 98.6 F.

In 1868, Carl Wunderlich published a seminal paper on body temperature in 25,000 adults. His more than 1 million measurements indicated that while temperatures of healthy individuals varied, they averaged 98.6[degree]F (37[degree]C). Texts on fever still cite Wunderlich's study, one of the few to investigate normal temperatures, and accept as dogma the 98.6[degree]F average-body-temperature figure, notes Philip A. Mackowiak at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. However, his new data suggest the average should be 98.2[degree]F.

Mackowiak's group measured oral body temperature digitally up to four times daily for three consecutive days in 148 volunteers. The healthy men and women ranged in age from 18 to 40.

Like Wunderlich, Mackowiak's team found that normal temperatures vary between individuals (by as much as 4.8[degree]F) and even within individuals over the course of a day (by up to 1.09[degree]F). However, the Baltimore group found that 98.6[degree]F "was not the overall mean temperature, the mean temperature of any of the time periods studied, the median temperature, or the single most frequent temperature recorded." Indeed, they report in the Sept. 23/30 Journal Of The American Medical Association, 98.6[degree]F accounted for just 8 percent of their 700 readings.

Maximum normal temperatures varied from a 6 a.m. low of 98.9[degree]F to a 4 p.m. high of 99.9[degree]F. Though age did not appear to influence readings in this group, women tended to be about 0.3[degree]F warmer than men, and blacks about 0.1[degree]F warmer than whites. Mackowiak's team also observed a 2.44-beats-per-minute increase in heart rate with each 1[degree]F rise in body temperature.

Mackowiak described Wunderlich's data collection as awesome, noting that thermometers then took 15 or 20 minutes to obtain temperatures and had to be read while still in place -- the armpit. Today, however, physicians eschew such underarm readings because of their unreliability.
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Title Annotation:new research says temperatures vary widely depending on time of day
Author:Raloff, Janet
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Sep 26, 1992
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