My mom and I keep arguing about the best way to take my son’s temperature to check for fever. What exactly does the temperature tell you about a person anyway, because mine changes practically every day?”
–C.T., Salina, Oklahoma
Answer: Your mom probably used a rectum thermometer to determine if you had a fever because it was a very accurate method. Thing is, children squirm and those glass thermometers used to break. This was a problem for oral readings, too, because those old thermometers were loaded with toxic mercury.
Today, you can buy forehead “temporal” thermometers that use infrared technology to read a temp; although I don’t consider them to be very accurate. The best way nowadays is to take a “tympanic” ear temperature. It’s so easy and you can get a reading in a matter of seconds. The units are sold in pharmacies nationwide; the fancy units even warm up, making it pleasant when you place it in your ear. A ‘normal’ body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
For what it’s worth, a mild fever isn’t such a bad thing. Your body heats up as part of your immune system’s assault effort to fight a cold or flu bug. Immediately lowering a mild fever with lots of medicine could backfire because you stall your body’s efforts to heat up and destroy the invader. Always call your pediatrician when your child has a fever.
Your temperature is an indicator of what is happening in your body. Do you realize your body temperature fluctuates from day to day, and even cyclically? For example, a woman’s temperature spikes around ovulation each month in order to make a warm and comfy environment for any potential fertilized eggs. And as hormones fluctuate wildly— as in menopause—a woman’s thermostat loses control and hot flashes occur. Medical conditions such as hypothyroidism or poor adrenal function can lower a person’s temperature as well.