Section I. GENERAL INFORMATION
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO KNOW THE PATIENT'S TEMPERATURE?
a. To Determine the Cause of the Patient's Condition. When a person
becomes ill, one of the first things that must be done is to determine what disease,
injury, or other factor is responsible. Some problems, such as pneumonia and
heatstroke, cause the body to become warmer than normal. Some problems, such as
generalized hypothermia and some forms of shock, cause the body to become cooler
than normal. Many other problems will have little or no effect upon the body's
temperature. Determining whether the patient's temperature is normal, higher than
normal, or lower than normal can be important in determining what is wrong with the
b. To Determine the Effectiveness of Treatment. If the patient's condition has
caused his body to become warmer or cooler than normal, then his temperature should
return to normal as he becomes healthier. Change or lack of change in the patient's
temperature may indicate if the treatment being used is actually working.
WHAT IS A "NORMAL" TEMPERATURE?
The average body temperature (measured orally) of the average healthy human
being is 98.6F (37.0 C). This does not mean that everyone should always have a
temperature of 98.6 F. An individual's normal temperature may be slightly higher or
slightly lower. A body temperature between 96.8 F and 100.4 F is considered to be
within the normal temperature range.
WHY IS "NORMAL TEMPERATURE" GIVEN AS A RANGE?
Why is it necessary to have a normal temperature range? Why isn't a
temperature of 98.6 F normal and everything else is abnormal? The reason is that a
person can have a body temperature that is slightly above or below 98.6 F and still be
normal and healthy. Some of the factors that make it necessary that "normal"
temperature be defined as a range are given below.
a. People Have Different "Normal Temperatures." Remember that 98.6 F is
the average normal temperature. Some people have normal temperature that is slightly
higher than average while others have normal temperature that is slightly lower than
(1) A person whose normal body temperature is above average (such as
99.0 F) is said to have a "high-normal" body temperature.