Heatwaves and hospital staff: Taking the temperatures may be important

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.333.7565.448 (Published 24 August 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:448
  1. J Cleo Oliver, specialist registrar general surgery (cleo.oliver{at}yahoo.co.uk),
  2. Venkat S S Neelapala, senior house officer general surgery
  1. Gwynedd Hospital, Bangor LL57 2PW
  2. Gwynedd Hospital, Bangor LL57 2PW

    EDITOR—We read with interest Kovats's review of the impact of the recent heat wave on public health.1 We noticed several patients on the general surgical ward during this period with fevers up to 38°C but normal inflammatory markers. This led us to investigate the temperatures of the staff in the hospital.

    We assessed the tympanic temperature, using the Kendall Genius first temp tympanic thermometer, of 21 members of staff at 830 pm on 19 July 2006, the end of the hottest day in north Wales. A few weeks later on a cold day, temperatures were taken at the same time of day from 10 further staff members. Out of the 21 temperatures recorded on the hot day, only four were normal (below 37°C). The mean temperature was 37.33°C and the maximum temperature was 37.9°C. Among the temperatures recorded on the cooler day, the mean temperature was 36.36°C and the maximum temperature was 37°C. The difference between the two samples was statistically significant using an unpaired t test (P < 0.001).

    Although our sample sizes are small there is statistically significant evidence to show unexpectedly high temperatures in healthy staff members during the recent heat wave. This may be due to the sudden increase in temperature after a long cold winter in north Wales.

    These results are important to remember when managing patients with high temperatures but normal inflammatory markers during a heat wave to avoid inappropriate use of antibiotics.


    • Competing interests None declared.


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