COVID-19 Screening Finds That Our Average Body Temperature Had Dropped
December 10, 2020
If your body feels cooler to the touch these days or if your COVID-19 temperature screenings run lower than normal, you’re in good company. For over 200 years, the average body temperature of humans has dropped by more than one degree. The decrease in body temp is good news if you’re hot all the time. But at the same time, you may wonder if you should be concerned and if a lower body temperature is dangerous. Let’s find out.
What’s the Average Body Temperature?
We’re reminded of our average body temperature during routine COVID-19 screening and each time a nurse takes our vitals at the doctor’s office. The average body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (F), a number that’s been widely accepted since 1851.
While widely accepted, 98.6 isn’t set in stone. Our body temps can rise or fall by 0.5 F degrees depending on the time of day. Age, hormone levels, and other factors can also affect an individual’s body temp.
In most cases, though, a body temperature reading of 100.4 degrees F or higher indicates that you may have a fever, infection, drug reaction, or other health concern.
Why has the Average Body Temperature Changed Over Time?
Scientists have performed extensive studies on body temperature because it’s an important indicator of health and wellness. Here are a few scientific reasons why we’re getting cooler.
1. Fewer infectious diseases
Malaria, tuberculosis, and other highly contagious diseases were more common in the 1800s than they are today. Our amazing immune system adopted a higher temperature in order to fight off diseases and protect the body. With thanks to modern medicine and preventative methods, these diseases are now under control, and our body temperatures can relax.
2. Changes in our environments
We live, work, and play in 21st-century environments that are very different from the 19th-century environments. Almost everywhere we go, our bodies remain at a stable temperature because of air conditioning and heating, two modern and glorious inventions. Our bodies don’t have to adjust to temperature extremes that were common in the past, and environmental stability allows our average body temperature to drop.
3. Lower metabolic rate
Metabolic rate is a fancy term for the energy we burn. Think of it like a car engine - even in idle, the car expends energy and stays warm. Our bodies work the same way. The better medical treatments, preventive measures, and overall health we enjoy today, plus higher body mass, in some cases, reduce the heat our bodies produce and lower our body temperature.
Does Body Temperature Matter?
Our bodies are designed to maintain a fairly consistent temperature. High or low body temperatures signal a potential problem, which is why body temp is a vital sign. Temperature is also especially important today as we face COVID-19.
The new average body temperature of 97.5 is an important change. But scientists are still investigating how this change affects our health and well-being. In the meantime, let’s continue to prioritize wellness and monitor our new normal temperature.