Body Temperature Ranges: Low, Normal, High & Fever
A fever is when the body temperature increases. Fever acts as a sign to show that something out of the ordinary is happening inside the body.
The normal body temperature range of an individual is around 37 degrees centigrade (37°C) give or take a degree depending on the individual. It’s important to note that normal body temperature may fluctuate due to several factors including:
- Age and gender
- The time of day
- Recent strenuous activity
- What was eaten and drunk
- For women: where they are within their menstrual cycle
- The temperature assessment method you are using
A fever occurs if temperature is measured at 38°C or over. Temperatures between 37.5°C and 38.5°C may indicate a low-grade fever. A high-grade fever is present when the oral temperature is above 38.5°C.
How to measure for (abnormal or) normal body temperature
Many people notice when their body temperature rises, but for infants and babies they are often unable to share the reason for their distress. For this reason, it is important to be aware of what a normal body temperature is and what is not.
There are several ways to measure body temperature:
- Orally (taken by mouth): this can be done with a normal glass thermometer or with a digital thermometer
- Forehead: there are special thermometers which are able to measure body temperature through the skin (via touch or from a distance)
- Otic (in the ear): these thermometers measure the temperature inside the ear, which matches the body temperature
- Axillary (under the armpit): measured here, normal body temperature is 0.2 °C lower than temperature as measured orally
- Rectally (in the anus): the normal body temperature measured rectally is 0.3 °C higher than temperature as measured by mouth.
Common types of thermometers
There are different types of thermometers available, some with specific designs for specific uses, and certain types are more effective than others:
- Digital thermometers (orally, anally, and axillary): fastest and most accurate results
- Ear thermometers: measures the infrared heat released within your ear, but has to be placed correctly or it can give false results
- Forehead thermometers: reads the infrared heat released from the forehead skin
- Mercury glass thermometers: although accurate, they are now considered outdated because of the dangerous risk of mercury exposure
Self-treatment and medication to reduce temperature
To reduce a temperature to within a normal body temperature range, helpful self-treatment options may include:
- Remaining hydrated
- Using a cold compress to aid comfort
There are also medications, either over the counter or prescribed, that can be taken. Some of the most common over-the-counter prescribed medication includes the following:
- Ibuprofen (such as Advil)
Understanding the normal body temperature for adults, children and babies is important as this vital sign provides insight into what is happening within our bodies. By knowing what a normal body temperature is, what variations are healthy, and which are not, and the associated signs and symptoms that can highlight an underlying serious health concern, we can all stay safe and well.