Nursing ETDs


Rebecca Mayo

Publication Date



The human body temperature generally considered normal by medical professionals and the lay public and believed to be an important referent in diagnosing illness and determining its severity is 98.60 Fahrenheit (F). The initial work establishing 98.60 F published over 140 years ago may be flawed; and, even if correct, may not reflect the present normal body temperature. To investigate mean body temperature in adults ages 21-100 who regarded themselves as 'well,' an observational descriptive study was undertaken to measure body temperature using two commonly used measurement methods, oral and tympanic. 1000 adults comprised the non probability non randomized sample and were drawn from four metropolitan areas, 250 from each: Portland, OR, Minneapolis/St Paul, MN, Hartford, CT, and Albuquerque, NM. Temperatures were taken from 8 AM — 8 PM. Data on covariates as suggested from extant literature were collected. The mean oral temperature was 98.30F. The mean tympanic temperature was 97.90F. Both means were statistically different from 98.60F (p <.001). There was only moderate correlation between thermometer measurement methods (R2 .35). Multiple regression analysis identified age, gender, and time of day temperature was taken as statistically significant covariates (p <.001 for all), but together they accounted for less than 18% of the variance regardless of measurement method. Public health implications are discussed. The referent of 98.60F should be replaced with 98.20F for most adults in evaluating oral temperature. When tympanic measurements are taken, a lower 'normal' of 97.90F should be considered.

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

College of Nursing

First Committee Member (Chair)

Caudell, Ann

Second Committee Member

Parshall, Mark

Third Committee Member

Davis, Dana


human body temperature, normal temperature



Document Type