Feb 22, 2018
Health in Japan: fever checking fever
The longer you are in Japan, the more you forget what was your normal before you came. I was reminded of that this past week when all four of my children had the flu. I was talking to my Mam on the phone and mentioned that all the kids have a high "fever". She said "What is that?"
Of course, she recognizes the word fever and knows what it means, but she was having a mental block, because that is not an expression we use in Ireland. People refer to your (body) temperature going up or down, but nobody could tell you what the scope of a fever is. Sure nobody even owns a thermometer. If a child is acting off and feels particularly hot you might take them to the Doctor's clinic, who will take their temperature. S/he will tell you that your child's temperature is above normal, but it is unlikely they will specify what the temperature is.
Just this morning I was messaging foreign friends here in Japan when the fever thing came up again. I asked my friends if they knew what a fever was before they came to Japan. They both answered no. They are from Wales and Australia, and like in Ireland, the only person who owns a thermometer is the Doctor. This led me to take a quick survey with more foreign friends and the general consensus: a temperature is something only a Doctor takes in the "West" and very few "lay" people know the parameters of a fever.
Meanwhile in Japan at this time of year there is a fever taking fever! Everybody owns a thermometer. It wouldn't surprise me if they own more than one. A lot of people with young children have to take temperatures daily, a requirement of a lot of the day care and preschool facilities. Even some schools have this requirement in place while the flu is rampant. Everybody also knows not only what a regular body temperature is, but what exactly their personal average temperature is. Moreover, they know that a low grade fever is generally a temperature above 37 degrees and a high fever is that above 38.5 degrees. Furthermore, when a temperature goes over 40 degrees they know you need to get straight to the hospital.
There are pros and cons to being hyper vigilant about body temperatures. I will reserve judgement. But I do wonder for how many expats taking body temperature and talking about "fevers" has become normal? Have you resisted the Japanese way and still live in a thermometer free house? Or have you succumbed to the fever checking frenzy!?
Level 8 LocalGuide with Google. Blogging about life in Japan as an Irish WAHM to 4 kids on insaitama.com.
I couldn't even tell you now what normal for fevers is, but my daughter is *just* school age so I'm sure I'll find this out living here! American hubby (and my American friends) all know about it though! They're a very fever aware culture but in Australia it's very much a "touch your hand to your kids head and if they feel unusually warm or exhibit other symptoms, take them to the doctor!" situation.
Interessting that there is such a big diffrence in other countries. In my home country Germany it is the same like in Japan. Every family owns a fever thermometer, for checking if you have fever, when you are sick. Often people, who caught a cold, just go to the doc when they have fever. There is just a diffrence in the measuring of what is really fever in Japan and Germany. When me and my husband had the influenza last week, my husband always said he has high fever (38 degree). In my country that is only a high temperature, not really a dangerous fever. Btw. many woman who wish to get pregament are checking often their daily temperature. I don´t think that owning a fever thermometer is that rare.
@genkidesu I think I was probably introduced to the fever checking thing when I was in hospital after giving birth to my first. I had to take my temperature in the morning and the evening and soon learned what was considered "normal" and what not. But it was when my eldest started kindy that all ounces of the Irish way were pounded out of me and the japanese way became my norm!!
@Crazydeath It is really interesting how it differs so much from one country to the next. I hadn't thought about women trying to conceive and how they take their body temperature. But I do know in my home country (Ireland) even friends who would have a thermometer in the house for that reason, never use it on their kids. Its just not something we do at home. As genkidesu said, we just touch the forehead and if it feels hot its off to the doctor's office. Cultural differences really are fascinating.