This study aimed to examine the overnight temperature pattern of babies during the prodromal phase of minor illnesses. The overnight rectal temperature pattern of 123 babies was recorded weekly from about 6 to at least 16 weeks old, while parents maintained detailed records of signs of illness. By analysis of patterns of signs and visits to the general practitioner, 86 periods of minor illness were identified, mostly upper respiratory tract infections, though it was not usually possible to identify the infection by conventional virology. Data were analysed separately for babies who had developed an adult-like night time temperature pattern and those who had not. In both groups, obvious signs of illness were preceded by a disturbance of night time temperature pattern. Temperature was significantly raised over control weeks, though few babies were clinically febrile. The greatest temperature disturbances were seen in the three days before illness, though some disturbances were seen up to seven days before. A similar disturbance of temperature was seen the night after diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus immunisation, and individual responses to natural infection and immunisation were well correlated, suggesting that the temperature change is more a function of the host response than the infecting agent.
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