Measuring Body Temperature

Some 15 or 20 years ago, when I was looking after my bedridden mother, I bought a digital thermometer to keep tabs on the temperature in her bedroom. I’ve still got it, and it’s still working. Last night it was telling me that my bedroom temperature was 15º C – which seemed entirely plausible on what’s been a rather cold day.

I’d never used it to measure my temperature. But since one of the symptoms of Covid-19 is fever, which requires temperature to be measured, I put the probe in my armpit, and then in my mouth under my tongue. It reported a temperature 35º C in both cases. Internal human body temperature is supposed to be 37º C. So I seem to be rather cold. But body temperature varies between people, and during the day:

Why is my temperature so low? Maybe the battery is low? I never changed it. But last year I bought another digital thermometer, hoping to use it to record snow temperatures, but there’s been no snow round here. It’s a bit more precise, recording temperatures at 0.1º C intervals. And I doubt that the battery is flat. I can recharge it if it is. I’ll be interested to see what numbers it comes up with.

I used to have a mercury thermometer. Maybe I still do. If so I’ll try that as well, if I can find it. . Maybe buy a new one if I can’t.

If human core body temperature is 37º C, then measuring it at its edge is bound to produce a lower temperature.  Forehead skin temperature is likely to be much nearer ambient air temperature than body core temperature. So how meaningful are the results provided by infra-red thermometers pointed at people’s foreheads by police? After all, they’re measuring skin temperature, not body core temperature. And skin temperature will be a bit above air temperature. So if the police measure your forehead temperature, they’ll actually be measuring your car’s air temperature. They might decide you’re running a fever simply because you keep a warm car.

Equally, I might be seeing low temperatures because I keep a cold flat with hardly any heating. That’s the way I like it. Warmth sends me to sleep. And maybe that’s why I’m seeing numbers like 35º C: they accurately reflect my environment.

I think I may buy an infra-red thermometer. I almost did a couple of years ago. If I do I could start reporting my forehead surface temperature, and maybe also my room surface temperature.

Hat tip to smokingscot for this report:

Smoking, vaping and hospitalization for COVID-19

The study presents an analysis of the current smoking prevalence among hospitalized patients with COVID-19 in China, compared to the population smoking prevalence in China (52.1% in males and 2.7% in females). Through a systematic research of the literature (PubMed) we identified 7 studies examining the clinical characteristics of a total of 2352 hospitalized COVID-19 patients that presented data on the smoking status. The expected number of smokers was calculated using the formula Expected smokers = (males x 0.521) + (females x 0.027). An unusually low prevalence of current smoking was observed among hospitalized COVID-19 patients (8.7%, 95%CI: 7.6-9.9%) compared to the expected prevalence based on smoking prevalence in China (30.3%, 95%CI: 28.4-32.1%; z-statistic: 22.80, P < 0.0001). This preliminary analysis does not support the argument that current smoking is a risk factor for hospitalization for COVID-19, and might even suggest a protective role. The latter could be linked to the down-regulation of ACE2 expression that has been previously known to be induced by smoking. However, other confounding factors need to be considered and the accuracy of the recorded smoking status needs to be determined before making any firm conclusions. As a result, the generalized advice on quitting smoking as a measure to improve health risk remains valid, but no recommendation can currently be made concerning the effects of smoking on the risk of hospitalization for COVID-19. No studies recording e-cigarette use status among hospitalized COVID-19 patients were identified. Thus, no recommendation can be made for e-cigarette users. Keywords. SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19, ACE2, expression, susceptibility, smoking, hospitalization, electronic cigarette.

This follows on from a couple of my recent articles which drew attention to the low numbers of smokers suffering from Covid-19 in China recently.

It would seem that the authors agree that the data from several (7) studies “might even suggest a protective role” for smoking against the new coronavirus, possibly due to  “the down-regulation of ACE2 expression that has been previously known to be induced by smoking.”

This contradicts recent media suggestions that smokers are at greater risk than non-smokers.

About Frank Davis

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Measuring Body Temperature

  1. virtualbarman says:

    I’ve been checking mine and Mrs. Virtualbarman’s temps with an IR thermometer and we’re both low too…

    I was told yesterday (by a doctor) that a good test every morning is to take a deep breath and hold it for 10 secs. If you can your lungs are fine and you haven’t got it.

    1 minute 15 secs as you ask…

    • Frank Davis says:

      Very interesting. I used to be able to hold my breath for 4 minutes when I was about 30 years old.

      I held my breath just now for 25 seconds quite easily, and not with a deep breath. But afterwards I immediately started panting and puffing.

  2. robb says:

    I only managed 1-30 ..ive just been for a 15 mile bike ride in a 21mph head the way i,m 70

  3. Timbotoo says:

    One minute and twenty seconds at 72 years old.

    But let’s not make this a competition. ;-D

  4. woodsy42 says:

    There isn’t necessarily a contradiction for smokers and Covid. Smoking – having nicotine in the lungs -could well protect people from catching the virus but then if smoking has reduced lung efficiency over the years the virus could have more severe consequences if it is caught. Just a thought

    • Woodsy, agreed. That’s generally been my impression of a possibility as well. HOWEVER… we’d need to see more of the stats than I’ve had the impression we’re seeing. E.G. if we have four severe or deaths among 80-year-olds and 3 of them were smokers or ex-smokers, that might well be the general smoker/ex-smoker proportion more or less among 80-year-olds who were teens in the late fifties. Additionally, making any sort of judgment based on a 3 out of 4 subject pool is simply silly. It’s like flipping a coin four times, getting 3 heads, and deciding the coin has been tampered with! If you flipped it four THOUSAND times and got 3,000 heads…. well, THAT would be a different story!

  5. slugbop007 says:



    the highest smoking rats were observed in those aged 50 years or higher …


  6. mandy vincent says:

    Wishing you a speedy recovery Frank. Given what I have read about NY and smoking and vaping on here. Reminds me of Christopher Snowdens book, Velvet glove, Iron fist, where it was believed nuns did not smoke and were less likely to get cervical cancer ? I believe it was that.

  7. “So how meaningful are the results provided by infra-red thermometers pointed at people’s foreheads by police?”
    There was a clip of police doing that in India. My first thought was, if the copper holding it forgets to turn it on, he’ll still see a red dot.

  8. EG says:

    Well, back in my days, and I’m not that old, there were 2 ways to check temperature of humans. You could stick a thermometer in the mouth or stick it under the arm.
    Checking the temperature of the forehead is about as useful as checking the temperature of someones shoes. But we live in the new fear driven, no logic nightmare now and scared people will not question anything.

  9. Andrew Gay says:

    The conclusions of that report are counter-intuitive and somewhat surprising. I’d always assumed my apparent immunity to colds, flu etc compared to my fellow citizens was down to my regular consumption of alcohol. I’ve never considered that my (fairly minimal) smoking habit might be also help.

  10. smokingscot says:

    Frank, a change from the virus stuff. A chap in Netherlands has a 3 hour event of a comet blazing though the night, compressed into about 10 seconds, then he loops it s couple of times.

    • Frank Davis says:

      five times the size of Jupiter.

      The exact size of the rocky icy core of the strange comet isn’t known but is likely only a few miles across – but it has a much larger atmosphere.

      C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS)

      Comet Atlas was discovered on CCD images taken on December 28, 2019, with a 0.5-m (20 in) reflecting telescope atop Mauna Loa in Hawaii.[

      The JPL Small-Body Database using an epoch of February 18, 2020, shows Atlas with an orbital period of approximately 6,000 years, but this solution includes perturbations while inside of the planetary region. A more useful inbound barycentric solution before the comet entered the planetary region shows an orbital period of about 4,800 years.[1] The comet will reach its nearest point to the Sun on May 31, 2020.[8] After leaving the planetary region, the comet will have an outbound orbital period of about 5,200 years.

  11. James Higham says:

    Hope you’re right on that.

No need to log in

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.