Jordan was traveling last week and came home sick and now I, predictably, am sick too.  We validated this after several tries when the thermometer registered a 99.5 degree fever.  Jordan assures me that being in a warm bed after having taken a hot shower couldn’t have affected the results.

Thermometers, it turns out, are not a very useful diagnostic tool.  Everyone’s body responds differently to infection, so it’s quite possible to be sick without having a fever; two people can even be sick with the same strain of disease and only one might get a fever.  If you do register a fever high enough to not be explained by how many blankets are piled on top of you (generally anything over 100 degrees), then you’re definitely sick, but by that point, there are bound to be other symptoms, like the fact that you’re shivering while wearing a sweater and wrapped in a blanket in an 80-degree house.

I think the main purpose is to justify your illness in your own mind, so that you can say “See?  It was good that I didn’t go into work today!  I have a fever!”  To that end, I’ve got a brilliant idea for an invention.  It would be a thermometer that always reads a temperature of 101: high enough to justify staying home, but low enough not to get rushed to the emergency room.  It would come with a bubble pack of placebos, shown to be as effective as name-brand drugs in many studies.

By the way, have you ever wondered why you feel cold when you have a fever, even though you’re actually too hot?  It’s because what your body feels is the difference between your temperature and the temperature around you.  If your body temperature is normal and it’s cold around you, you’ll feel cold, but if your body temperature is high, then even if your surroundings are a normal temperature, you’ll still feel cold.


1 Comment

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One response to “Thermometers

  1. I have to disagree. You’ve never worked in Corporate America, but let me tell you: I had coworkers who would come to work with the flu if they could drag themselves out of bed. One lady we dubbed “Typhoid Mary,” she sounded so awful, walking around hacking and coughing and totally sick and miserable. Some people will, in fact, go to work if they were dying — unless the thermometer said they had a fever. For some people that’s the only thing they’ll accept as a good reason to stay home; anything else they’ll medicate the symptoms and push on.

    That said, I think your thermometer idea would sell *really well* to school-age kids.

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