Get access

Errors in body temperature assessment related to individual variation, measuring technique and equipment


Märtha Sund-Levander, Department of Welfare and Care, Linköping University, SE-601 74 Norrköping, Sweden. Email:


Errors in body temperature measurement might seriously influence the evaluation of an individual's health condition. We studied individual variation, measurement technique and the equipment used when assessing body temperature. In the first part of the study, three volunteers performed repeated measurements for five mornings. In the second part, the morning rectal, oral, ear and axillary temperatures were measured once in 84 men and women (19–59 years). The repeated measurements showed a daily temperature difference of 0.1–0.4°C in rectal and oral temperatures, 0.2°C−1.7°C in the ear and 0.1–0.9°C in the axillary temperatures. In the sample of 84 subjects, men and postmenopausal women had a lower mean body temperature compared to premenopausal women. The mean deviation between rectal temperature, and oral, ear and axillary temperatures, respectively, was > 0.5°C, with a large individual variation. In conclusion, in order to improve the evaluation of body temperature, the assessment should be based on the individual variation, the same site of measurement and no adjustment of oral, ear or axillary temperatures to the rectal site.