A person’s body temperature says a lot about their state of health. We explain which values are normal and what else you need to know.
Why is our body temperature so important?
We need a certain body temperature in order for our body to function properly and for all metabolic processes to work. However, this so-called core body temperature is never exactly the same – it is affected by various factors and therefore fluctuates a bit. If the body is healthy, it can regulate the temperature itself – for example, it drops with the help of cooling sweat.
What body temperature is normal for humans?
An adult should normally have a body temperature of 36.5 to 37.4 degrees – there is a temperature slightly higher than 37.5 degrees, above 38 degrees one speaks of fever. Core temperature varies slightly from person to person. The body temperature of infants and young children is usually slightly higher than that of adults: for example, the general body temperature of newborns is 37.5 degrees. The bodies of the little ones are not yet able to optimally regulate the heat balance, and children sweat less than adults. Therefore, it is easier to fluctuate in temperature and fever is more common.
Guide values for human body temperature
The following guidelines apply to human body temperature:
Slightly elevated temperature: 37.5 to 38 degrees Celsius
Mild fever: 38 to 38.5 degrees Celsius
Moderate fever: 38.6 to 39 degrees Celsius
High fever: 39.1 to 39.9 degrees Celsius
Very high fever: 40 to 40.9 degrees Celsius
Extreme fever: 41 degrees Celsius and above
Body core temperature or surface temperature?
In science, a distinction is made between core body temperature and surface temperature:
Core body temperature: around 37 degrees, but subject to minimal fluctuations (eg due to circulatory disorders). Body core temperature ensures that the internal organs are supplied with sufficient heat.
Surface temperature: Also known as skin value – it describes values on skin and limbs. Due to outside temperatures, the surface temperature fluctuates significantly greater than the body core temperature and is usually significantly lower than that.
Fluctuations in body temperature: what are the causes?
There are several reasons why body temperature fluctuates slightly from measurement to measurement. The following factors affect the temperature:
Hormonal fluctuations in women: 1-2 days after ovulation, women’s body temperature rises around 0.5 degrees.
Time of day: Normal temperature in the afternoon
metabolically highest – usually one degree above value in the morning. After that it drops again.
Emotions: Our emotions also affect body temperature – emotions caused by psychological stress, for example, increase it.
Physical activity: With heavy physical exertion, the temperature can rise up to 40 degrees.
Diseases: Various infections, cancer, and an overactive thyroid gland can also increase body temperature.
In addition, age, diet, and intake of various medications also play a role in temperature.
By the way: The temperature may also fluctuate slightly, depending on where on the body it is measured. For example, the armpit measurement is considered quite unreliable, as the temperature of the skin does not correspond to the temperature of the body.
This is why doctors recommend adults take oral or rectal measurements, and the ear thermometer is ideal for babies.
What happens when our body temperature is too low or too high?
A healthy body can usually tolerate slightly varying values that deviate from the norm. But extreme temperatures harm it:
Temperatures above 41 degrees strain the circulatory system and can damage both tissues and organs. If the temperature rises to 42.6 degrees, there is a risk of death.
Temperatures below normal (“low temperature”) allow the body to suffocate the organism – oxygen consumption is reduced, metabolic processes are inhibited. The reason may be, for example, a very cold ambient temperature, but various diseases such as hypothyroidism can also promote low temperature.
If a temperature below 28 degrees (“hypercooling”) is measured, there is a risk of slowing the pulse and breathing, circulatory failure and respiratory arrest.
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