Considerations for the measurement of core, skin and mean body temperatures

J Therm Biol. 2014 Dec;46:72-101. doi: 10.1016/j.jtherbio.2014.10.006. Epub 2014 Oct 30.


Despite previous reviews and commentaries, significant misconceptions remain concerning deep-body (core) and skin temperature measurement in humans. Therefore, the authors have assembled the pertinent Laws of Thermodynamics and other first principles that govern physical and physiological heat exchanges. The resulting review is aimed at providing theoretical and empirical justifications for collecting and interpreting these data. The primary emphasis is upon deep-body temperatures, with discussions of intramuscular, subcutaneous, transcutaneous and skin temperatures included. These are all turnover indices resulting from variations in local metabolism, tissue conduction and blood flow. Consequently, inter-site differences and similarities may have no mechanistic relationship unless those sites have similar metabolic rates, are in close proximity and are perfused by the same blood vessels. Therefore, it is proposed that a gold standard deep-body temperature does not exist. Instead, the validity of each measurement must be evaluated relative to one's research objectives, whilst satisfying equilibration and positioning requirements. When using thermometric computations of heat storage, the establishment of steady-state conditions is essential, but for clinically relevant states, targeted temperature monitoring becomes paramount. However, when investigating temperature regulation, the response characteristics of each temperature measurement must match the forcing function applied during experimentation. Thus, during dynamic phases, deep-body temperatures must be measured from sites that track temperature changes in the central blood volume.

Keywords: Calorimetry; Core temperature; Mean body temperature; Measurement; Muscle temperature; Skin temperature; Thermoregulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Volume
  • Body Temperature / physiology*
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology
  • Calorimetry
  • Humans
  • Mathematics / methods*
  • Metabolism / physiology
  • Skin Temperature / physiology*
  • Thermodynamics*