Whether you’re seeing our team for a scheduled physical exam or seeking treatment for an acute illness or injury at our walk-in clinic, every visit to American River Urgent Care begins in much the same way: with a measurement of your vital signs.
Your vital signs — which include your body temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiratory rate — are the fundamental assessments that reflect bodily function. Checking your vitals helps medical professionals and health care providers get a more accurate picture of your health.
While vital signs are influenced by age, gender, weight, fitness, and overall health, there’s still a “normal range” for the average adult. Pediatric vital signs have their own normal range.
Why we check your body temperature
While it can be affected by activity, recent food and fluid consumption, environmental temperature, strong emotions, female menstrual cycle stage, and even time of day, normal body temperature range remains relatively tight:
- Average body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit
- Normal body temperature range is 97.8 to 99.1 degrees, or slightly higher
At American River Urgent Care, we may check your temperature orally, by ear, or by the skin on your forehead. A temperature that’s higher than 100.4 degrees qualifies as a fever, while a temperature that registers below 95 degrees is considered hypothermia.
While dehydration, hormonal changes, hypothyroidism, stress, and sunburn can all affect your body temperature, infection and illness are the most common causes of an abnormal reading (in the form of a fever).
What we learn from your blood pressure
The term blood pressure (BP) refers to the degree of force (low, normal, or high) that your blood exerts against your arteries, or the blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood from your heart and lungs to the rest of your body.
The first number in a BP reading shows the amount of force your blood exerts on your arteries when your heart beats (systolic pressure). The second number reveals how much force your blood exerts on your arteries between beats, when your heart is resting (diastolic pressure).
BP readings fall into six categories:
- Low blood pressure is at or below 90/60
- Normal blood pressure is at or below 119/79
- Elevated blood pressure is between 120/80 and 129/80
- Stage one hypertension begins at 130/80
- Stage two hypertension develops at 140/90
- Emergency, hypertensive crisis begins at 180/90
Your BP measurement gives us insight into your overall health. If your numbers are elevated, we may advise multiple BP readings over the next several days to better assess your status — and whether you’re at an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.
Given that many factors (stress, caffeine, a full bladder, and anxiety) can affect your reading, elevated BP and hypertension are only diagnosed after consistently high readings.
What your pulse (heart rate) can reveal
Your pulse is the number of times your heart beats per minute. A normal, resting adult heart rate falls anywhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Your pulse is higher when you’re active, as exertion requires your heart to beat faster to supply your muscles with the blood and oxygen they require to meet increased demand.
We measure your heart rate with a simple pulse check, by placing two fingers on the inside of your wrist or the side of your neck, and counting the heart rate pulses we feel through your artery. We’re also checking to see if the pulses:
- Are spaced out equally
- Are normal (not excessively strong)
- Appear to skip any beats
Many health conditions can affect your heart rate, ranging from infection and dehydration to stress, anxiety, and anemia. Certain medications can also influence your heart rate.
Why we measure your respiratory rate
Respiration rate refers to the number of breaths you take per minute. For resting adults, the normal respiratory rate is 12 to 18 breaths per minute. Measuring your respiration rate simply means counting the number of breaths you take for one minute when you’re relaxed.
Asthma, anxiety, heart disease, and pneumonia are just a few conditions that can adversely affect your breathing rate. A respiratory rate that’s under 12 or over 25 breaths per minute while resting may be cause for further investigation.
Whether you’re in need of routine preventive care or pressing urgent care, American River Urgent Care can help. Give us a call today, stop by our walk-in clinic at your convenience, or click online to schedule a visit at our office in Orangevale, California, any time.