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Body temperature varies from different times and in different situations

Our body temperature is usually maintained at a constant temperature between 36 to 36.5°C. This is usually referred to as ‘normal temperature.’ However, normal temperature varies between individuals. Also, normal temperature can vary with each individual person, according to the following:

- The time the temperature was taken;
- The current state of activity; and
- On which part of the body the temperature was taken from

Our body temperature will usually shift within a 1°C range over the course of a day, any more than that could be the onset of a fever.

Changes over course of a day

Body temperatures are low just after waking up and will then gradually rise and peak at around 3pm. It will decrease again to be lowest at around 2am. Therefore, it is more accurate to measure body temperature about four times in a day.

Changes due to activity

Eating, exercise and bathing all cause body temperatures to rise. It is best to wait about 30 minutes after these activities before measuring temperature.

Different parts of the body have different temperatures.

We usually measure the temperature at the armpit, in the mouth (under the tongue) or in the ears (at the tympanic membrane). Of the three, body temperature taken from the ear is the most accurate.

Normal body temperature - Heat is a signal from the body

The heat in our bodies is usually generated in areas such as the brain, the liver and the muscles. It is carried to the surface of the body by the circulation of blood and then radiated off. It is the thermo-regulatory center of the brain’s hypothalamus which controls the generation and the radiation of the heat in order to maintain the body at a constant temperature.

Instructions given by this thermo-regulatory center include encouraging the body to perspire to lower body temperature when exercising or when the weather is hot, and causing goose bumps (closing the pores) when it is cold to prevent heat loss through diffusion.

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