Skip to main content

Your temperature might never be 98.6 — and that’s normal

Your temperature might never be 98.6 — and that’s normal


The tyranny of 98.6 must end

Share this story

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have worked a new routine into our lives: temperature taking. It’s understandable since fever is an extremely common symptom of the disease. But if you take your temperature regularly, you’ve probably noticed that your body is rarely 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (or 37 degrees Celsius). In fact, your temperature is probably all over the place.

Before you schedule a telehealth visit with your doctor, know this: there’s nothing “normal” about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. That number came from a 19th century German researcher named Carl Reinhold August Wunderlich who conducted a painstaking study of patient body temperatures and arrived at a mean of 98.6. It’s an impressive bit of clinical work, but it’s sorely in need of an update.

So what does pass for “normal” these days? We tested a number of our colleagues here at The Verge and checked ourselves against the latest research. And we spoke to a couple of more contemporary researchers about what large-scale temperature trends can tell us about the spread of a disease like COVID-19. Check out the video above to see what we found.

Verge Science on YouTube /

The home base for our explorations into the future of science.