If You're Over 65, You Could Be Missing This COVID Symptom, Study Says

This symptom comes up differently for seniors than it does in those under 65.

The sneaking suspicion that you're coming down with the novel coronavirus can be scary for anyone, but especially for people over the age of 65 who are at an increased risk of developing severe illness due to COVID. Some signs of the sickness can be super subtle, making them hard to pick up on, and there's one COVID symptom in particular that shows up differently for people over 65, which makes it easy to miss. To see which key symptom you could be missing, read on, and for more COVID updates that could affect you, check out If You're Over 65, You Shouldn't Get This New Vaccine, Experts Warn.

People over 65 have a lower temperature, which means they experience a fever at a lower temperature.

woman over 65 getting her temperature taken
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One of the most common and telling symptoms of COVID is a high temperature. According to an April 2020 report from the Journal of the American Medical Association, 55.5 percent of COVID patients report experiencing a fever.

The Mayo Clinic notes that the body's normal temperature stays somewhere between 98.6 and 99 degrees Fahrenheit, with the average being 98.6. The Mayo Clinic suggests that once someone's body temperature hits 100.04 degrees Fahrenheit, that should be considered a fever. However, a new pre-print of a study out of King's College London, posted on Jan. 28, suggests that body temperature and what constitutes a fever can alter as you age.

The researchers point out that "aging affects temperature in health and acute infection." Based on their findings, the study authors suggest that using a threshold of 99.32 degrees Fahrenheit as a signal of infection for people over 65 is equivalent to 100.04 degrees Fahrenheit in people under 65. And for more up-to-date information delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

The slight distinction in fevers for people over 65 could lead to missed COVID cases.

Sick senior man lying on sofa while his wife is holding and looking to thermometer
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The research suggests that COVID cases in people over 65, one of the most at-risk groups, could be missed as temperatures in seniors are often lower than the common 37.8 degrees Celsius (100.04 degrees Fahrenheit) threshold.

"Fever is one of the key symptoms of COVID-19, but our results show that cases in older people may be missed because the current temperature threshold is too high for older people," lead researcher Claire Steves, MD, from King's College London, said in a statement. "Recognizing 37.4 [99.32 degrees Fahrenheit] as the fever threshold for people over 65 could make a big difference to diagnosing the disease in a timely way, stopping its spread, and getting the right treatment." To see if your COVID case could be severe, check out If You Have This Common Habit, Your COVID Symptoms Will Be Worse.

The chance of reaching a fever of 100.04 degrees Fahrenheit decreases with each year of age.

Older man sick on the couch with a fever
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The Kings College study found that people over the age of 65 who had COVID were less likely to develop a fever of 100.04 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. The chances of older people reaching this temperature dropped by one percent with every year of age. That's why the researchers concluded that watching closely for even a slight increase in temperature in older adults could be helpful in identifying an infection. To see if your COVID case is one of the new variants, check out If You Have These 4 Symptoms, You Might Have the New COVID Strain.

Now, the researchers are appealing for a change in the definition of a fever in seniors.

Woman over 65 getting her temperature taken
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The findings from the study support an appeal for the National Early Warning Score (NEWS)—a tool doctors in the U.K. use to "detect clinical deterioration in adult patients"—to revise their guidelines. The adjustment to their fever threshold would encourage doctors to be more prudent in assessing COVID, and other infections, in people over 65. To see what you may be able to take if you get sick, check out This Common Medication Could Save You From Severe COVID, New Study Says.

Best Life is constantly monitoring the latest news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed. Here are the answers to your most burning questions, the ways you can stay safe and healthy, the facts you need to know, the risks you should avoid, the myths you need to ignore,and the symptoms to be aware of. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.
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