New Research from Braun Thermometers Finds Pandemic-Era Americans Need
More Education About Fevers and Thermometers

First came the global pandemic. Now, cold and flu season is also upon us. With frequent temperature-taking part of Americans' new normal these days, Braun Thermometers recently commissioned Wakefield Research to conduct a survey that took the country's temperature on all things fever- and thermometer-related.

What we found: Misinformation on temperatures and thermometers has reached a fever pitch. Though several studies have confirmed that normal adult body temperature varies from person to person, more than half (56 percent) of Americans wrongly believe that anything over 98.6 °F indicates a problem. Creating further concern, despite fever being the most common symptom of COVID-191 , 29 percent of adults have not checked their temperature once since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.

This has inspired us to also launch National Temperature Check Week, to be held from Monday, Oct. 26 - Sunday, Nov. 1. Our goal, with both the survey and National Temperature Check Week, is to give Americans more certainty about their health and well-being at an uncertain time. We are aiming to educate people about how to take an accurate temperature reading, the importance of knowing your personal temperature range and the different factors that can impact this, including your choice of thermometer.

Whether dropping kids at school, returning to the office or dining out, temperature checks are now a part of our daily routines in the "new normal," making it an ideal time for a "temperature check" on Americans' perspective on temperature-taking. Braun Thermometers' new survey found:

Temperature checks and changing behavior

  • In terms of temperature-taking frequency, people seem to be split into two very different camps. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, almost half (47 percent) of American adults are taking their temperature at least once a week. However, 29 percent (over one quarter) haven't checked their temperature even once since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Parents are also significantly more likely to be checking their temperature at least once a month (75 percent, compared to 49 percent of non-parents). In fact, most parents (66 percent) are checking their own temperature weekly, much more often than the 38 percent of their child-free peers who say the same.
  • Despite being more at risk, older Americans appear to not be as vigilant with their temperature. Both Millennials (64 percent) and members of Gen X (53 percent) are significantly more likely than Boomers (33 percent) to check their temperature at least weekly.
  • More than 3 in 4 (79 percent) think it's more important to check one's temperature now than a few months ago, especially parents whose children are potentially returning to school.
  • Nearly 9 in 10 parents (89 percent) say it's more important to check temperatures now that it's fall, compared to 75 percent of their child-free peers.

The temperature knowledge gap

Body temperature varies considerably between individuals based on a number of factors, including age, gender, weight, physical activity and even time of day. Studies have also shown that the interpretation of a fever differs by site (or the part of the body where temperature is checked). Yet, our survey uncovered some prevalent knowledge gaps on this subject:

  • More than half (56 percent) of Americans wrongly believe that anything over 98.6 °F indicates a problem.
  • While parents, perhaps more than anyone, need to have quick and accurate results that they can understand, 73 percent of parents believe the myth that any temperature above 98.6 is a problem, significantly more than the 47 percent of child-free adults who say the same.
  • Nearly 3 in 4 (72 percent) Americans don't know that genetics can affect their temperature, while others are unaware that food or beverage (58 percent), time of day (58 percent), or physical activity (35 percent) are also factors in what their number is. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) know that being sick can affect their temperature, but other than that, how their bodies vary is a mystery to many.
  • Americans know to check temperatures when someone is feeling warm (48 percent), as well as when screening for cold or flu symptoms (40 percent) or COVID-19 (34 percent). But 14 percent of Americans are only checking when they think they might be sick.
  • Most are skipping one of the most important reasons to check their temperature: Just 19 percent are checking to establish their baseline temperature! Without knowing your personal temperature range, it's more challenging to detect a fever and determine when you need treatment.

Consumers need more certainty: Thermometers and accuracy

Besides not knowing the basic facts of their baseline temperature, Americans are also skeptical about the instruments they're using, signaling a need for education about different thermometers and how to best take an accurate reading.

  • Two-thirds (66 percent) of Americans aren't completely confident that their thermometer is providing an accurate reading-which might be why nearly 7 in 10 (69 percent) check their temperature more than once.
  • Parents are especially likely to check temperatures more than once; 81 percent of parents say they do so to feel more certain, as compared to 64 percent of those without kids who say the same.
  • Men (41 percent) are significantly more likely than women (28 percent) to say they are completely confident their thermometer is providing an accurate reading.

Find tips from Dr. Altmann on how to take an accurate temperature reading: Learn More.

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted by Wakefield Research among 1,000 nationally representative U.S. adults ages 18+, between Oct. 2 and Oct. 6, 2020, using an email invitation and an online survey. Quotas were set to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the U.S. adult population, ages 18+.

1 Research from University of Southern California: Modeling the Onset of Symptoms of COVID-19 (August 13, 2020)