The normal body temperature of an adult is around 98.6°F or 37°C. Because a person’s temperature is affected by any number of internal and external factors (e.g., weather, level of stress, viruses and bacteria), it may fluctuate several times in a day. As long as it stays in the range of 97°F to 99°F (36.1°C to 37.2°C), it is still considered normal and nothing to be concerned about.
Babies and small children may have a higher than normal body temperature, especially if they are improperly dressed. They are also more immediately affected by changes in the temperature outside.
Measuring Body Temperature
There are different ways to find out if you have normal body temperature. Below are the most common ones:
There are different kinds of thermometers available in pharmacies and supermarkets. The most common one is the digital thermometer, which has disposable probe covers. Mercury thermometers were more popular in the past, but because of the risk of glass breakage and mercury contamination, few countries make use of them now.
To take body temperature using a digital or mercury thermometer, insert the devise into any of the following areas: in the mouth (under the tongue), under the armpit, or the rectum. Some digital thermometers issue a ping to indicate that they have finished taking the temperature reading. Otherwise, keep the thermometer in the area for fifteen seconds to a minute, to make sure you get the correct temperature.
Liquid metal thermometers that are mercury-free offer an alternative way of checking for normal body temperature without putting people at risk of mercury poisoning. These are used like mercury thermometers, but contain a nontoxic liquid metal that is safe for both the user and the environment.
Glass alcohol thermometers often contain a red liquid and are another option. They provide accurate temperature readings, but they usually do not hold their readings for a very long time. If you prefer to use this kind of thermometer, make sure you check the reading as soon as possible to get the most accurate results.
There are also ear thermometers, but these are expensive and sometimes give inaccurate readings when not placed correctly in the ear. For babies and young children, the strip-type thermometer can also be used. Again, these may cause misleading readings because they often measure the temperature of the skin as opposed to the whole body.
- Temperature-sensitive infrared device
This is new equipment available in most pharmacies. To check for normal body temperature, simply rub the sensor against the skin. The device will automatically read the body’s temperature based on that.
A Note on Reading Body Temperature
Whatever device you use to check for normal body temperature, it is best to be consistent and use the same device in succeeding readings. There will always be discrepancies in the readings of two different devices, but using the same equipment will at least give you an accurate range of measurement. This will make it easier to compare past and present results and to see if your body’s condition is improving or getting worse.