A child's temperature might be 96 F instead of the average 98.6 F for several reasons. Body temperature varies based on time of day and the method used to obtain the reading.
If a child's temperature is taken under the armpit, the reading is often lower than it would be if the temperature was taken orally. It is important to follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully to avoid false readings. Some children naturally have lower-than-normal temperatures, so a temperature of 96 F is not necessarily cause for concern. The most common cause of a lower body temperature is exposure to cold, according to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.
In some cases, a temperature of 96 F is an indicator of an underlying medical condition or a side effect of certain prescription drugs. Diabetes, hypothyroidism, kidney failure, adrenal gland insufficiency and liver failure are all possible causes of a persistent low temperature. If a temperature of 96 F lasts for several days, it is important to contact the child's pediatrician to discuss the possible cause. If the child is not taking opiates, lithium, clonidine or another type of medication known to cause lower body temperatures, a pediatrician can order blood tests to rule out an underlying medical problem.