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Russian Wussburgers

11/20/07

  10:26:33 pm, by Nimble   , 381 words  
Categories: Distractions, Common Sense, People

Russian Wussburgers

I got to learn a few interesting bits of trivia from a Russian coworker or two today.

It all started out with one of them looking at the consent/health forms for the flu shots that were being offered...

The first line referred to a body temperature above 39.5 °C. He was absolutely aghast, and thought you would be pretty much dead at that point. He further informed me that above 37 °, your blood would solidify or clot or something, and that at 37 °, you would be considered really sick.

"Whaaaa?", thought I, pretty sure off the top of my head that normal body temperature was just about 37 °C in the first place, but not only was he adamant, another one of his Russian compadres was also adamant that this was the case.

Internet access was out very briefly that day, but I have never wanted onto the internet to resolve a dispute so badly in a long time.

So I looked it up and found normal human body temperature, and sure enough, it was pretty darned close to 37 °, moreso during the daytime.

So where would this Russian belief have come from?

Well, I found out from them that they take temperature from the armpit in Russia, and as a parent, I know that it's a half a degree lower in the armpit in babies than orally-taken temperature would be, and it sounds like that's also the case in adults. 36.6 °C is supposed to be the absolute ideal in Russia. There's even a pharmacy chain called 36.6. For armpit temperature, that would make sense.

I also found out from them a little trick they used to do in Russia in order to be let out of school: they would put salt under their armpits and this would apparently make the temperature register higher (more conductivity?)

My own personal urban legend would be that somebody in Europe had a thermometer meant to be used orally and put a line where normal body temperature would be, and then they made some in Russia and thought that the red line meant danger. I don't know how else to explain the "37 degrees = really sick" urban legend that at least two of the Russians (and they're not all that old) were carrying with them.

3 comments

Comment from: Ari Jokimäki [Visitor]  
Ari Jokimäki

It’s not about taking temperature from the armpit. We do that here in Finland, and we use Celsius scale. 37 °C is considered quite normal, perhaps slightly feverish. It varies by person, but I feel very sick if my armpit temperature is something like 38 °C, and even upto 37.5 °C I might feel almost normal. Pretty much everybody have over 39 °C at some point of their lives (I have had that once when I was young), and many can have over 40 °C temperatures but that starts to be something to be concerned about.

Blood solidifying when your temperature is over 37 °C? That one you can forget right away… :D

I don’t know why your coworkers claimed otherwise, perhaps it has something to do with calibration of thermometers in Russia? Or perhaps they were pulling your leg, that one gets my vote.

11/21/07 @ 06:59
Comment from: Nimble [Member]  
Nimble

The armpit is supposed to be a lower temperature than the mouth by 0.5 °C, so they have that tiny bit of leeway, but they really seemed serious (I’ve seen their joke faces :) ) about being duly worried about temperatures at 37 °C and above.

Even the diurnal cycle pushes body temperatures above that a lot of the time. Do they measure people’s temperatures at 10:30 a.m. in Russia just to get the right armpit temperature?

For all the science Russia has, I’m beginning to suspect that the bad biology of Lysenko has had a really bad long-term effect on biological knowledge over there.

11/22/07 @ 23:07
Comment from: Nimble [Member]  
Nimble

George, you’re not reading the post particularly thoroughly if you think it’s laden with sarcasm. This is about a bit of Russian medical superstition. Not “low grade fevers can be really serious", but “above 37 C, your blood will solidify".

I don’t think there are too many doctors in North America or the UK that would treat an axillary temperature of 37°C without other indicative symptoms, and I’ve had my share of fevers in both places, which is why the Russian coworker reaction to the temperature seemed so extreme.

08/22/12 @ 01:43
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