What Is a Normal Body Temperature?


Spoiler alert! It’s not 98.6° F. Keep reading to find out why.

In the mid-1800s, a German physician determined 98.6° F was the normal body temperature after studying more than a million temperatures from 25,000 people. However, recent research suggests challenges this long time standard and states the average normal body temperature is actually closer to 97° F for adults.

Why the change? It’s speculated that many people had untreated infections (e.g., gum disease, tuberculosis and syphilis) that could have caused persistent, low-grade fevers and skewed early results. Moreover, temperatures were taken under the arm rather than by mouth. Temperatures taken outside the body can be as much as a full degree lower than oral body temperature.

What is a normal body temperature for adults?

Not everyone’s normal body temperature is the same.

A typical, healthy adult can have a temperature anywhere between 97° F and 99° F. It can fluctuate throughout your day and your life. For example, your temperature is usually lower in the morning (before you get out of bed) than the afternoon. A woman’s temperature can also fluctuate based on where she is in her menstrual cycle. In fact, many women who are trying to conceive track their basal (resting) body temperature to help them predict ovulation.

For these reasons and more, doctors are realizing that a normal body temperature is more of a sliding scale than a specific number.

What is a normal body temperature for children?

Children, particularly younger children tend to run warmer than adults. A normal temperature range for children is 97.7° F to 100° F. A reason for this is they haven’t learned how to effectively regulate their body temperature. This makes them more susceptible to spiking (sometimes severe) fevers.

It is not uncommon for a child to spike a fever between 103° F and 105° F. We recommend over-the-counter fever reducers containing acetaminophen to avoid further complications like lethargy, confusion and delirium.

If your child’s fever does not come down with fever reducers (or if they are three months of age or younger), keep your child hydrated and visit State Urgent Care for immediate medical attention.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a persistent fever of 103° F or higher, seek immediate medical attention particularly if it is accompanied by a severe headache or unusual skin rash.

If you believe you have COVID-19, contact your primary care physician by phone to schedule an appointment for a coronavirus test or notify State Urgent Care by phone before arriving at the urgent care center in person.

State Urgent Care is open for walk-in appointments seven days a week, from 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.