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What is a normal body temperature?

A mother chekcing her child's temperature, with a themometer in one hand and her other hand on her childs head.
What’s normal when it comes to body temperature? Find out all the answers.
Tracking yours and your family’s normal range of body temperature helps you know what’s normal for you, helping you to identify when something isn’t quite right.

What is a normal temperature?

Your body temperature varies slightly from day to day. It’s been a long-held belief that most people are somewhere around 37C. However, the latest research indicates that the average body temperature is slightly cooler, around 36.6C.19

The normal temperature for healthy adults is from 36.1 – 37.2 degrees centigrade. Anything within this range can be a healthy, normal human temperature.
Age Body temperature normal range

Fever temperature range

 

Other signs of illness include How to take their temperature Precautions
Baby (age 0-2)

Around 36.4C

(normal temperature for a baby can vary slightly from baby to baby – it’s best to take your baby’s temperature regularly to find out what’s normal for them).1

37.5C or above2

Hotter to touch on their forehead, back or stomach.

Sweaty, clammy or have flushed cheeks.3

Always take the temperature either under the armpit (axillary) for babies.

Place the tip of the thermometer under the baby’s armpit and gently hold them still until it beeps.4

Fever in babies under 6 months of age is rare.

If your baby is younger than 3 months and has a fever of 38C or above or is between 3-6 months of age with a fever of 39C or above, seek medical attention immediately.5

Child (2-10)

Around 36.4C

(normal kids’ temperature can vary slightly from child to child – it’s best to check your child’s temperature occasionally to find out what’s normal for them).

38C or above6

Hotter to touch on their forehead, back or stomach.

Sweaty, clammy or have flushed cheeks.7

It’s best to take the temperature under the armpit (axillary).

You could also use an ear thermometer (tympanic), but don’t allow your child to do this unsupervised.8

Fevers in children are common and usually nothing to worry about.

If your child’s temperature lasts more than 5 days or is accompanied by a rash, see your child’s GP.9

Young person (10-18) 36.5C - 37.2C considered normal range10 38C or above11

Hotter to touch on their forehead, back or stomach.

Sweaty, clammy or have flushed cheeks.

They have other symptoms, such as shivering (chills), sweating or warm, red skin.12

Older children can be shown how to take their own temperature.

This can be armpit (axillary), ear (tympanic) or by mouth.13

If the temperature lasts more than 5 days or is accompanied by a rash, see your child’s GP.
Adult (18-65) 36.6C – 37.2C considered normal range14 38C or above15

Your chest or back feel hotter than usual

You have other symptoms, such as shivering (chills), sweating or warm, red skin16

As above. Contact your GP if your fever doesn’t improve after 3 days, the fever is over 40C, or if you’re having trouble breathing.17
Older adult (65+) 36C18 37.8C or above As above. As above. Older adults tend to have a slightly cooler core body temperature.

What can affect body temperature?

Some people ‘run hot or cold’ and can have a slightly higher or lower basal body temperature naturally. There are also various other factors which affect your body temperature.

1. Your gender

Women’s core body temperature rises slightly after ovulation. Some women choose to track their fertility this way. It’s important to do this for at least six months before using it as your only form of contraception to get an accurate idea of when ovulation occurs.

A special fertility tracking thermometer should be used to get the most accurate result.20

2. Thyroid conditions

Thyroid hormones regulate metabolism and heat production by the body, and those with an overactive thyroid may be sensitive to higher temperatures, and those with an underactive thyroid may be more sensitive to the cold.

People who are experiencing an acute flare up, or have poorly controlled thyroid disease may notice a change in their temperature.21

3. Time of day

Your body temperature is generally cooler in the morning and warms up by the afternoon, peaking around 6pm.22

4. Activity levels

The more active you are, the higher your body temperature. This is why we get hot while exercising or doing anything strenuous

5. Illness

A high temperature is a normal response to infection. When your body encounters a virus or harmful bacteria, your immune system is activated, your body temperature raises, and it becomes more difficult for the virus or bacteria to survive.23

How to take your temperature

Your forehead, chest or back may feel hot or have a fever, you may also have symptoms such as body chills. For an accurate reading, you’ll need a digital thermometer. You can pick one of these up at pharmacies and big supermarkets for a relatively low cost. Don’t use an old glass mercury thermometer. These are discontinued and not recommended for safety reasons.24
  • By mouth: to take a temperature by mouth, clean the digital thermometer tip with soap and cold water before drying and placing under the tongue, towards the back of your mouth. Hold until it beeps, and the reading will be ready.
  • By ear (tympanic): Instructions vary, but they involve placing the tip of the thermometer (covered with a hygienic cap) snugly inside the ear canal and waiting for the result. Normal ear temperature will read up to 1C higher than temperature taken by mouth.
  • By armpit (axillary): Place the tip of the thermometer in the crease of your armpit, holding it firmly and tight against your body until the thermometer beeps.

Fever Q&A

Q Is 37.2 a fever?
A: In adults, this wouldn’t be considered a fever. It is on the higher end of the scale, but is a normal temperature for adults. Readings over 38C would be considered a fever in most adults.

Q: Is a temperature of 36 normal?
A: A temperature of 36 can be normal in healthy adults if you usually have a body temperature on the lower end of the scale. If this temperature is unusual for you, or accompanied by shivering or feeling cold for no apparent reason, consult a doctor.25 If your temperature drops below 35C, consult a doctor as this is considered hypothermic.

Q: Is a temperature of 37.4 OK?
A: This is outside of the normal temperature range. If you feel otherwise well, it isn’t anything to worry about. If you feel feverish or have other symptoms such as body chills, speak to a doctor.

Q: Why does a normal human body temperature stay the same despite external temperatures?
A: Your body is good at regulating its own temperature, even if the external conditions change. This is why we shiver when it’s cold and sweat when it’s hot.

Last updated: 1 March 2024

Sources

  1. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/fever-in-children/
  2. https://www.nhsinform.scot/self-help-guides/self-help-guide-fever-in-babies
  3. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/fever-in-children/
  4. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/how-to-take-your-babys-temperature/
  5. https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/infections-and-poisoning/fever-in-children
  6. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/fever-in-children/
  7. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/fever-in-children/
  8. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/how-to-take-your-babys-temperature/
  9. https://what0-18.nhs.uk/parentscarers/worried-your-child-unwell/fever-high-temperature
  10. http://www.choosewellmanchester.org.uk/self-care/self-care-information-for-adults/taking-your-temperature/
  11. http://www.choosewellmanchester.org.uk/self-care/self-care-information-for-adults/taking-your-temperature/
  12. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/fever-in-adults
  13. https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/accidents-first-aid-and-treatments/how-do-i-take-someones-temperature/
  14. http://www.choosewellmanchester.org.uk/self-care/self-care-information-for-adults/taking-your-temperature/
  15. http://www.choosewellmanchester.org.uk/self-care/self-care-information-for-adults/taking-your-temperature/
  16. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/fever-in-adults
  17. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/fever-in-adults
  18. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16398904/
  19. https://www.bmj.com/content/359/bmj.j5468
  20. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/natural-family-planning/
  21. https://www.btf-thyroid.org/myths-and-misunderstandings-about-thyroid-disease
  22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK331/
  23. https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/infections-and-poisoning/fever-in-adults
  24. https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/accidents-first-aid-and-treatments/how-do-i-take-someones-temperature/
  25. https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/
 

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