The New Normal

98.6° isn’t a one-size-fits-all body temperature.Normal isn’t necessarily 98.6° anymore.  Scientists have learned that the normal resting body temperature may actually be 98.2° Fahrenheit, rising from morning to evening. Other studies have shown that the normal temperature declines slightly as people age.  That’s not necessarily good news, because a drop of even a few degrees could mean that serious fevers go unnoticed because low temperature readings can be misleading.

A study in The Journal of the American Geriatric Society found that half of nursing home patients who had infections registered temperatures below 101 degrees.  Some had temperature increases of 2.4 degrees or more, symptoms of potentially serious fevers.

Fever is a natural part of the body’s defense mechanism against infections, and this immune response appears to be diminished in many older people.  Some studies suggest that up to 30 percent of the elderly register a low normal, making bacterial or viral infections all the more serious.

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