Heat Check: “Ideal” Body Temperature of 98.6 Degrees Isn’t Normal After All

For most Americans, 98.6 degrees Farenheight has been taken for granted as the normal body temperature. A thermometer reading too far above that line is often met with dread (unless you are Ferris Bueller, perhaps!). Yet, this age-old standard of health has become less true with each passing decade. According to studies from Stanford, Americans’ average temperatures have fallen by 0.05 F every decade since the 1800s. The 98.6 degree benchmark was borne out of an 1860s German study. Yet even this study found variations from person to person. Older people generally had lower temperatures than younger adults, for example. Temperatures also fluctuate based on the time of day.

What is the likely cause of these changes? Researchers point to the improvement of health and living conditions which have lowered inflammation. In today’s world, the average body temperature hovers around 97.9 F. And the reality is that a normal temperature isn’t one-size-fits-all. A normal reading can be 97.3 F for one adult and 98.2 for another. Future research may explore individualized definitions of fever. Scientists could also investigate whether having lower or higher normal temperatures impacts life expectancy.

Full Story: HealthDay