Your Body Temperature and What It Means

Your Body Temperature and What It Means | Dr. Ali Ghahary

On average, the normal body temperature is approximately 37°C (98.6°F.) However, this can fluctuate and vary from person to person, and one’s normal body temperature can be 0.6°C (1°F) below or above this. As for what our body temperature actually does, it is the body’s way of making and ridding of heat. For example, if we get too hot, blood vessels in the skin will widen which carries the heat to the surface of the skin and results in sweating. The sweat then starts to evaporate, which ultimately cools down the body. On the contrary, when we’re cold, our blood vessels will narrow which results in the opposite: shivering and trembling, which allows our bodies to create more heat. Our body temperature also depends on how we take it. The most common way that a temperature is taken is orally (by mouth), though if it is taken rectally then that reading may be slightly higher (and also tends to be more accurate.) Your temperature can also be taken with an ear or forehead thermometer.

If an oral temperature is above 37.6°C or rectal temperature is above 38.1°C, then this would be considered a fever. A fever is a usually-temporary increase in the body’s temperature and is a sign that something is going on with your body, such as illness (for example, you could be fighting an infection – something that fevers are commonly associated with.) There are also many other reasons why one might develop a fever; for example, from taking certain medications including antibiotics, antihistamines (used to treat allergies) and opioids (used to relieve pain), as well as other medical conditions including hyperthyroidism, arthritis, heart attack, stroke, and even certain types of cancer. Even the weather can have an impact on body temperature – winter and summer, in particular. If you happen to develop a lower than average body temperature, you could go into what’s known as hypothermia, which can occur as a result of being exposed to cold weather for a prolonged period of time. In addition, a lower body temperature can also be caused by certain medical conditions such as diabetes and thyroid disorders, and can even be caused by drug and alcohol use. Just like a fever, a low body temperature can also occur with an infection.

If you find yourself running a fever, the body goes through different processes to try and regulate it on its own: vaporization (sweating), radiation (releasing hit into surrounding air), convection (cooler air surrounding the body), conduction (transfer of heat to adjacent cold water/ice.) You can also lower your body temperature on your own in two different ways: internally or externally. Drinking water, for example, is a way to reduce your body temperature internally, while taking a cool shower/bath is considered external cooling.

There are other ways you can reduce body heat, too. As already mentioned, drinking water is one way to externally decrease your body temperature. If you’re overheating, it can also be helpful to go somewhere where there is cool air, such as an air-conditioned building, or by applying a cool cloth or ice to specific points on the body where veins tend to be closest to the surface (the best spots to do this are on the wrists, neck, or temples) as this can help you cool down quite quickly. Because our bodies also release heat when they’re moving, you should avoid strenuous physical activity/exercise outside during warmer weather. While you still need to exercise to stay healthy, you should consider limiting how much activity you do outdoors and consider working out at home or in a gym, which also has air conditioning. The type of clothing you wear can also play a role in your body temperature. For 4xample, acrylic and nylon fabrics are synthetic which makes it harder for heat to escape, which it escapes much more easily from linen and cotton – so be mindful of the types of fabrics you’re wearing, as well as ensure that your clothing is loose fitting.

Also as previously mentioned, an increase in body temperature could also be an indicator of more serious health issues, such as a thyroid problem (hypothyroidism) or something that’s known as a “thyroid storm”, which is a condition that can occur after surgery, an illness, infection, or even after pregnancy. In addition to having a high body temperature, symptoms of this condition also include sweating, nausea/vomiting, abdominal pain, rapid heartbeat, jaundice (yellowing of the skin), and agitation.

If you develop a body temperature of 39.4ºC or higher, you should seek medical attention.