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Vital signs

Vital signs reflect essential body functions, including your heartbeat, breathing rate, temperature, and blood pressure. Your health care provider may watch, measure, or monitor your vital signs to check your level of physical functioning.

Normal vital signs change with age, sex, weight, exercise capability, and overall health.

Normal vital sign ranges for the average healthy adult while resting are:

  • Blood pressure: 90/60 mm Hg to 120/80 mm Hg
  • Breathing: 12 to 18 breaths per minute
  • Pulse: 60 to 100 beats per minute
  • Temperature: 97.8°F to 99.1°F (36.5°C to 37.3°C); average 98.6°F (37°C)

References

Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomon BS, Stewart RW. Vital signs and pain assessment. In: Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomon BS, Stewart RW, eds. Seidel's Guide to Physical Examination. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 6.

Simel DL. Approach to the patient: history and physical examination. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 7.

    • Neck pulse

      Neck pulse - illustration

      To measure the pulse on the neck, place the index and middle finger just to the side of the Adam's apple, in the soft hollow area. This pulse is felt in the common carotid artery.

      Neck pulse

      illustration

      • Neck pulse

        Neck pulse - illustration

        To measure the pulse on the neck, place the index and middle finger just to the side of the Adam's apple, in the soft hollow area. This pulse is felt in the common carotid artery.

        Neck pulse

        illustration

      Review Date: 2/7/2019

      Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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