Why Feeling Hot Is Good for Your Heart ... and the Cold Makes You Slim; as Scientists Unravel How Body Temperature Affects Your Health

Daily Mail (London), July 8, 2014 | Go to article overview

Why Feeling Hot Is Good for Your Heart ... and the Cold Makes You Slim; as Scientists Unravel How Body Temperature Affects Your Health


Byline: JOHN NAISH

WE TEND to think of our body temperature in the same way that Goldilocks thinks of porridge -- it is either too cold, too hot or just right. But now scientists have found that being 'too hot' or 'too cold' can actually be medically beneficial.

In fact, by altering our temperature we may be able to change crucial aspects of our lives for the better.

The myth of 'normal' body temperature

MOST people think of normal body temperature as 37c. This benchmark was set by Dr Carl Wunderlich, a 19th-century German physician, after he took the temperatures of thousands of patients.

However, an American re-evaluation of his work in 1992 found that 36.8c is more accurate. Such small differences can play a big role in determining things such as a woman's fertility. Moreover, our normal body temperature changes by as much as 0.6c through the day.

Usually you wake with a cool temperature because your body is rested. As you begin daily activities, it starts to rise.

Older people are often cooler than average, and when they fall ill with an infection their bodies may never reach 'normal' fever temperatures.

Dr Martin Scurr explains: 'As you get older your body's ability to regulate its temperature gets less efficient. In very hot weather older people's bodies don't sweat and lose heat so well.

'Furthermore, in cold weather older people don't conserve heat that much. It is therefore easier for them to get hypothermia.'

When having a fever is GOOD for you

HAVING a temperature was traditionally thought of as a bad thing that, in extreme circumstances, could cause serious brain damage and even kill.

But now scientists have discovered that fever helps to boost our bodies' immune defences -- and that for mild illnesses, taking fever-reducing drugs such as paracetamol and ibuprofen makes it more likely we will infect others.

This is because viruses replicate less efficiently in higher temperatures, so fever can lower the amount of virus in a sick person's body. Canadian researchers have estimated that in a typical flu season, fever-reducing drugs may lead to tens of thousands more cases. Parents should therefore avoid giving fever-reducing drugs to children unless they particularly look distressed.

Dr Scurr says children with viral infections can look very worrying to parents. 'But if you unwrap them from their clothes and bedclothes and put a fan on them or bathe them quickly in lukewarm water, it can lower their temperature significantly.'

Hot women are more fertile

RAISED temperature in a woman is a sign that she is at the most fertile part of her monthly cycle. It rises by about 0.2c just after ovulation. This is thought to be due to raised levels of fertility hormones, including progesterone.

Women who are trying to conceive often use a basal thermometer (which has a finer scale than a normal one) to help them pinpoint when they are ovulating -- and mobile phone technology may make this more precise, as new apps use sensors worn on the skin to monitor a woman's temperature throughout the day. 'These may help to get a more accurate idea of when fertility is peaking,' says Dr Allan Pacey, a fertility expert. But he stresses that it still isn't foolproof. …

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