Chapter 2: Temperature

Why is Temperature Measured?

Healthcare providers measure a client’s temperature because it can give information about their state of health and influence clinical decisions. Accurate measurements and interpretation are vital so that hyperthermia and hypothermia can be identified and appropriate interventions determined.

Hyperthermia refers to an elevated body temperature. It can be related to an internal or external source. External sources that increase body temperature could include exposure to excessive heat on a hot day or being in a sauna or hot tub. Internal sources that may increase body temperature include fever caused by an infection or tissue breakdown associated with physical trauma (e.g., surgery, myocardial infarction) or some neurological conditions (e.g., cerebral vascular accident, cerebral edema, brain tumour). Hyperthermia that is associated with an infectious agent, such as a bacteria or virus (e.g., the flu) is referred to as febrile. Unresolved hyperthermic body states can lead to cell damage.

Hypothermia refers to a lowered body temperature. It is usually related to an external source such as being exposed to the cold for an extended period of time. Hypothermia is sometimes purposefully induced during surgery, or for certain medical conditions, to reduce the body’s need for oxygen. Unresolved hypothermic body states can slow cellular processes and lead to loss of consciousness.


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Vital Sign Measurement Across the Lifespan - 1st Canadian edition Copyright © 2018 by Ryerson University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.