Skip to content

    First Aid & Emergencies

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Body Temperature

    What is body temperature?

    Body temperature is a measure of the body's ability to generate and get rid of heat. The body is very good at keeping its temperature within a narrow, safe range in spite of large variations in temperatures outside the body.

    When you are too hot, the blood vessels in your skin expand (dilate) to carry the excess heat to your skin's surface. You may begin to sweat, and as the sweat evaporates, it helps cool your body. When you are too cold, your blood vessels narrow (contract) so that blood flow to your skin is reduced to conserve body heat. You may start shivering, which is an involuntary, rapid contraction of the muscles. This extra muscle activity helps generate more heat. Under normal conditions, this keeps your body temperature within a narrow, safe range.

    Where is body temperature measured?

    Your body temperature can be measured in many locations on your body. The mouth, ear, armpit, and rectum are the most commonly used places. Temperature can also be measured on your forehead.

    What are Fahrenheit and Celsius?

    Thermometers camera.gif are calibrated in either degrees Fahrenheit (°F) or degrees Celsius (°C), depending on the custom of the region. Temperatures in the United States are often measured in degrees Fahrenheit, but the standard in most other countries is degrees Celsius.

    What is normal body temperature?

    Most people think of a "normal" body temperature as an oral temperature of 98.6°F (37°C). This is an average of normal body temperatures. Your temperature may actually be 1°F (0.6°C) or more above or below 98.6°F (37°C). Also, your normal body temperature changes by as much as 1°F (0.6°C) throughout the day, depending on how active you are and the time of day. Body temperature is very sensitive to hormone levels and may be higher or lower when a woman is ovulating or having her menstrual period.

    A rectal or ear (tympanic membrane) temperature reading is slightly higher than an oral temperature reading. A temperature taken in the armpit is slightly lower than an oral temperature reading. The most accurate way to measure body temperature is to take a rectal temperature.

    What is a fever?

    1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

    First Aid A-Z

    • There are no topics that begin with 'O'
    • There are no topics that begin with 'Q'
    • There are no topics that begin with 'U'
    • There are no topics that begin with 'X'
    • There are no topics that begin with 'Y'
    • There are no topics that begin with 'Z'

    Today on WebMD

    blue flames
    The right way to treat them.
    Wound paste into a cross
    8 essentials for car or purse.
     
    cpr demonstration
    4 steps for adults.
    bagged salad
    Learn when to call a doctor.
     
    sniffling child
    Slideshow
    wound care true or false
    Slideshow
     
    caring for wounds
    Slideshow
    Harvest mite
    Slideshow
     

    Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

    It's nothing to sneeze at.

    Loading ...

    Sending your email...

    This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

    Thanks!

    Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

    WebMD the app

    Get first aid information. Whenever. Wherever... with your iPhone, iPad or Android.

    Find Out More