Have you ever felt feverish, then been slightly confused when the thermometer reads “normal” or even below? In the last decade the average body temperature benchmark of 98.6° has been shown to be too high.
Since 1851, when a German doctor named Carl Wunderlich established that benchmark through his singular research, this figure went unchallenged. But in recent times, many doctors and researchers have observed that body temperature is influenced by several factors, including time of day, gender, age and race.
They’ve found that women (98.4°) are slightly warmer than men (98.1°), and blacks (98.2°) are slightly warmer than whites (98.1°). Further, children are warmer than adults due to their rapid metabolism, and everybody’s temperature is lowest at around 6 a.m. and peaks at 6 p.m. That makes the overall average 98.2°.
So, how did poor Dr. Wunderlich get it wrong? The thermometer he used, now in a Philadelphia museum, was calibrated a little too high. And because his research took into account more than a million temperature readings of 25,000 patients over many years – an astounding feat of patience for any scientist — the number stuck, and for over a century has been puzzling people who report feeling feverish but whose thermometers read “normal.”
In Chinese medicine, when someone says they feel hot or feverish, we accept that despite what the thermometer reads. That’s because Chinese medical doctors are more focused on the patient’s subjective physical experience. Our treatment then is to “clear heat” by needling acupuncture points and/or prescribing herbal remedies. So trust yourself whenever you feel “off” — you should take it easy, drink lots of fluids and consult an acupuncturist.