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Myth: Your body temperature is not 98 degrees Fahrenheit

A recent study led by Stanford Medicine challenges the widely held belief that the standard body temperature for everyone is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

Researchers discovered that body temperature varies among individuals, influenced by factors like gender, age, weight, and height. Moreover, body temperature fluctuates throughout the day.

Traditionally, it was believed that the average body temperature for Americans was 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, a notion dating back to the 19th century.

However, this figure has gradually declined by 0.05 degrees Fahrenheit per decade, likely due to improved living conditions reducing inflammation. Presently, most individuals have an average body temperature closer to 97.9 degrees Fahrenheit.

The origin of the 98.6-degree benchmark can be traced back to data collected by a German doctor in 1868, who measured temperatures from approximately 25,000 individuals. He noted variations, with men and older adults showing lower readings than women and younger adults. Although temperatures tended to be higher in the afternoons, the reported average remained 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

Dr. Julie Parsonnet, the study’s author, is interested in investigating personalized definitions of fever and whether consistently higher or lower normal body temperatures have any bearing on life expectancy.

It’s essential to note that a fever, in medical terms, is typically considered when body temperature exceeds 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Elevated temperatures may indicate high or very high fevers. Newborns generally have an average body temperature of around 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit, while children typically average approximately 97.52 degrees Fahrenheit.

For infants under three months old with a fever surpassing 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or for any child with a fever reaching 104 degrees Fahrenheit or a history of febrile seizures, consulting a pediatrician is recommended.

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