Understanding body temperate & fever
March 28, 2020 8:34 PM   Subscribe

I remember reading a while ago that 'normal' body temperatures are lower than previously thought. My usual temperature definitely seems to be. Related to that, I'm trying to understand whether fever is relative or absolute.

My temperature usually seems to be in the 96 to mid 97 range. I've noticed that I start to feel uncomfortable when it's over 98. I would call that feeling slightly feverish except that I don't think any medical guidelines would ever consider 98.4 a fever.

Everything covid related seems to use 100 degrees as a baseline for symptomatic, and as far as I can tell even strict airport/hospital monitoring isn't concerned by any temperature 99 or less. When we were still reporting to work, our guidelines said to stay home if you had a fever, and didn't specify a temperature.

On the one hand, my temperature never got higher than 98.8, or maybe 99.1. But on the other, would a 1.5 to 2+ degree increase in itself be evidence of increased immune response - and would that mean I can effectively have a fever even if I don't technically have one? Are there any implications I would be thinking about? Or can I just not worry about it, consider myself asymptomatic, and take some ibuprofen to feel more comfortable?

(I know that covid19 can be completely asymptomatic, so absence of fever doesn't mean I don't have it).

I would appreciate any links to relevant sources and information as well as insight/summaries from anyone with expertise. My own googling had not been very fruitful so far. Thank you!
posted by Salamandrous to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I also have learned from this hell dimension we have slipped into that I run a lower body temp. My temp is usually around 96-97 and sometimes hits 98ish. I'm a 42 year old healthy woman. I have been taking my temp 2x a day and have felt slightly alarmed when it hit 98 or even 99 once. A few things I've learned:

It doesn't hurt to take your temp a few times in a row to triangulate. I will usually take it 3 times and it will often read 97, 96, 97 for example. The one time I hit 99.1 I took my temp again and got 97.7 the next two times.

I unfortunately can't find sources for these anecdata, but:

- I read that in senior care facilities they sometimes lower the threshhold for fever because older people tend to have lower temperatures. I did some googling to try to find the article (it was in relation to the lifecare center here in Seattle if I recall), but could not find it.

- Most folks are being refused tests if their fever isn't 101, according to my Facebook network.

If I were you I would keep taking my temp, and I wouldn't take any meds for a slightly raised temp if that's the only symptom.
posted by pazazygeek at 8:46 PM on March 28, 2020

Best answer: Metafilter post about article in Wired, Sep 2018. I just read through it and the take-home message seems to be that if you feel like you have a fever, then you do have a fever--thermometers be damned.
posted by polecat at 9:24 PM on March 28, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: How regularly have you been taking your temperature multiple times a day? I think it's normal for it to change throughout the day. This article suggests that three degrees above normal is a fever.
posted by pinochiette at 5:53 AM on March 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There was a sawbones episode about this recently.
posted by onya at 7:36 AM on March 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

I run cold with low blood pressure. It was only a long existing relationship with a medical professional that had my high blood pressure get treated early - even when I was in hospital I barely hit high blood pressure thresholds even though it was SIGNIFICANTLY higher than my usual "how the hell are you upright" levels. He used long term tracking (months) and other symptoms to ensure I got appropriate treatment. Similarly with temp I have existing data, and internal monitoring, which reflects my specific body better. Doesn't help during a time of pandemic and mass quantified treatment etc but when I had a mild fever last week I isolated for a while anyway.
posted by geek anachronism at 2:00 PM on March 29, 2020

The only input I have: all my life my temp has run between 96 and 97, perhaps 97.5. When I was a child at school, I felt ill and went to the school nurse, who pooh-poohed my temperature at 99 and told me I was fine. Somehow I convinced her to call my mother, who confirmed that 99 is a fever FOR ME.

I still haven't had complete luck with current medical professionals believing me, to this day, that my temperature runs lower than "standard".
posted by annieb at 4:00 PM on March 29, 2020

Response by poster: Thank you so much to everybody! The links were very useful. I tried to take my temperature a few times a day (I managed to go about a week). When I was feeling fine, it was in the high 96 to low 97. When I was feeling crappy, it was either in the high 95/low 96 or mid to high 98.

On the plus side, I don't have to worry about passing all those forehead temperature tests for entering places. On the negative side, it'll be completely unreliable information!
posted by Salamandrous at 8:31 AM on June 7, 2020

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