Is a personalised baseline for temperature useful? By Helen Ashdown
Tangentially related to respiratory medicine, but nonetheless a useful nugget for clinical practice in managing patients with fever/acute illness. Helen Ashdown and colleagues have recently published a study in the Journal of Medical Engineering and Technology to try to answer the question of whether it's useful to have a personalised baseline for temperature, or whether existing population thresholds are more appropriate. In other words, when patients say 'I'm normally a cold person, so a temperature of 36.8 is actually really high for me' should we be taking that into account?
The team conducted a prospective observational study involving 29 healthy adults and 23 patients undergoing chemotherapy, who monitored their temperature over time, providing 1,755 and 1,765 temperature readings respectively. Within-person variability was significantly higher than between-person variability - suggesting that a population mean rather than individualised baselines is sufficient for most clinical purposes and we don't need to take 'hot' or 'cold' people into account.