What is it about?
Major individual differences in body temperature exist and mean normal body temperature is much lower than what is currently assumed to be "normal." We found the mean body temperature of men and women ages 18-67 to be 36.1˚ C (97.0˚ F) -- quite a bit lower than what is currently used as the "normal" body temperature (37.0° C or 98.6° F). Thus, for most people 98.6˚ F constitutes a fever. Over 3/4 of our participants had mean body temperatures at least one degree lower than 98.6˚F. Individual differences in body temperature were large; mean temperatures ranged from 35.2° C (95.4° F) to 37.4° C (99.3° F). Although body temperature varied widely across individuals, it showed marked stability within individuals over days. Variability of temperature over days did not differ by sex, but was larger among younger adults. Mean temperature did not differ by age, but women generally had higher temperatures than men, even within a couple.
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Why is it important?
Using 37.0°C (98.6°F) as the assumed normal temperature for everyone can result in serious healthcare errors for the majority of the public (since most people's normal body temperature is less than 97.5° F [less than 36.4° C]): (1) Clinicians failing to detect a serious fever. (37.0°C [98.6°F] is a serious fever for many people.) (2) False negatives obtained when using temperature to screen for COVID-19, mistaking an elevated temperature (of 98.6° or 99°) as normal.
Read the Original
This page is a summary of: One size does not fit all: Assuming the same normal body temperature for everyone is not justified, PLoS ONE, February 2021, PLOS, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0245257.
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Correct Table 1 for the PLOS One paper, "One size does not fit all: Assuming the same normal body temperature for everyone is not justified"
PLOS One's typesetter made a number of errors in Table 1. We asked PLOS One to publish an erratum, and they agreed in April 2021 to do so, but have yet to do that. Here is Table 1 as it should have appeared in PLOS One.
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