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July 17, 1996

Tympanic Membrane vs Rectal Temperature Measurement in Marathon Runners

Author Affiliations

Lutheran General Sports Medicine Park Ridge, Ill

JAMA. 1996;276(3):194. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540030028014

To the Editor.  —Exertional heat illness may encompass a variety of syndromes, including heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. All of these are more likely to occur in conditions of high heat and humidity such as may prevail at the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Ga. Athletes with heat illness may sustain severe consequences, including acute renal failure and fatality. Therefore, it is essential that body temperature be assessed accurately in those who may be at risk. Endurance events such as the marathon and triathlon place athletes at greatest risk.1Most authors have recommended monitoring rectal temperatures as the best measure of core temperature in the setting of exertional thermal illness. Core temperature reflects the clinical status of these patients. Higher temperatures (especially those >40.6°C [>105°F]) imply heat stroke and portend a poorer prognosis.1 Rectal temperature has been demonstrated to reflect core temperature measured at the pulmonary