When written in a medical report or stated verbally by a health care provider, "body temperature 97" means that a thermometer shows that a patient's temperature is 97 degrees Fahrenheit. Body temperature can be recorded by a rectal, oral, tympanic or armpit thermometer, according to WebMD.
WebMD warns that a rectal or tympanic reading of less than 97 degrees Fahrenheit may indicate hypothermia, a condition that occurs when body temperature is too low. Exposure to frigid temperatures can cause a low temperature, but errors that occur during the temperature-taking process can also cause an unusually low reading. A damaged thermometer or improper temperature-taking techniques may result in an inaccurate reading, according to WebMD