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Br J Nurs. 2013 Sep 12-25;22(16):942, 944-50.

Assessment of body temperature measurement options.

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Senior Lecturer at Faculty of Health Sciences, Linköping University and Futurum/Academy of Health and Care, Jönköping County Council Sweden.


Assessment of body temperature is important for decisions in nursing care, medical diagnosis, treatment and the need of laboratory tests. The definition of normal body temperature as 37°C was established in the middle of the 19th century. Since then the technical design and the accuracy of thermometers has been much improved. Knowledge of physical influence on the individual body temperature, such as thermoregulation and hormones, are still not taken into consideration in body temperature assessment. It is time for a change; the unadjusted mode should be used, without adjusting to another site and the same site of measurement should be used as far as possible. Peripheral sites, such as the axillary and the forehead site, are not recommended as an assessment of core body temperature in adults. Frail elderly individuals might have a low normal body temperature and therefore be at risk of being assessed as non-febrile. As the ear site is close to the hypothalamus and quickly responds to changes in the set point temperature, it is a preferable and recommendable site for measurement of body temperature.

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