Some causes of slightly lower-than-usual body temperature include infections, heavy alcohol use and hypothyroidism. Occasional low temperatures are common because body temperature changes throughout the day, notes Mayo Clinic.
Body temperatures tend to temporarily drop for a variety of reasons. Normal reasons include swimming in cold water, going outside in cold weather without protection, staying in an unheated space for an extended period of time or if a person wears cold, wet clothing for too long.
Normal Body Temperature Range
Most people have a body temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, but normal temperatures can also range from between 97 F to 99 F, according to the Mayo Clinic. This temperature can change during the day; for example, body temperature is lower in the morning than in the evening. Temperature also depends on how active a person is, a person's age or whether a woman is menstruating, for example.
What a Low Body Temperature May Indicate
Consistently low body temperature can indicate a number of conditions. Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, contributes to low body temperature and makes patients feel cold. Serious problems like kidney and liver failure may cause these low temperatures as well, which may also put a person in shock. Infections can lower body temperature, WebMD says. A large-scale infection, called sepsis, brings down body temperature, but so will some minor infections. This consequence of infections typically affects babies and older adults. A low temperature is not considered serious until it dips below 95 degrees.
The most concerning problem of a low body temperature is hypothermia. A body temperature that is lower than 95 degrees Fahrenheit is a medical emergency indicating hypothermia, which can lead to death if it goes untreated. Overall, people with a low body temperature that hasn‰Ûªt reached hypothermia levels of 95 degrees F and lower should not be concerned unless the condition persists. Minor infections can clear up by themselves. Those who are worried about their low body temperature should see a doctor to find out if a more serious problem exists.
Symptoms of Hypothermia
A person with low body temperature, but not hypothermia, may shiver, have goosebumps and experience chattering of teeth. If hypothermia is setting in, a person will have a phases of symptoms in this order: extremities will get very cold and advances to numbness; the body will start to shiver; exhaustion settles in; a person becomes irritable, confused or starts slurring and experiences poor balance; the person begins to move stiffly, breathing slowly as the heartbeat slows down or becomes irregular; muscles stiffen up; the body progresses to trembling; a person loses consciousness and death sets in as the heart stops beating. Infants and young children will also exhibit symptoms, such as bright red, cold skin.
How to Treat Low Body Temperature
If hypothermia is setting in, restore warmth slowly, says WebMD. Bring the person indoors. Remove clothing if wet and cold. Warm a person's trunk first because warming extremities first can cause shock, advises WebMD. Wrap the person in blankets, but do not immerse in warm water, which could cause heart arrhythmia. Water bottles and hot packs are advisable only if wrapped in cloth to keep the heat from directly touching the skin. Warm fluids will also help body temperature rise.