Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can produce heat. This causes a dangerously low body temperature. Normal body temperature is around 98.6 F (37 C). Hypothermia occurs as your body temperature falls below 95 F (35 C). When your body temperature drops, your heart, nervous system and other organs can't work properly. Left untreated, hypothermia can lead to failure of your heart and respiratory system and eventually to death. Hypothermia is often caused by exposure to cold weather or immersion in cold water. Primary treatments for hypothermia are methods to warm the body back to a normal temperature.
What Is Low Body Temperature?
Human body temperature, whether too high or too low, can be indicative of a wide variety of health concerns. Low body temperature is a body temperature dangerously below normal temperature. This health condition results from the body losing heat faster than it can produce it. When you have hypothermia you are definitely feeling cold and the situation needs to be addressed right away because hypothermia symptoms follow a spectrum of progression from mild to deadly.
What is the normal body temperature?
The average normal human body temperature is generally said to be around 98.6 F or 37 degrees Celsius. However, what’s considered a normal body temperature can differ from person to person. It can also vary depending on the time of day; your sex; what you recently ate; your level of physical activity; and your age. Research has shown that “normal” can be anywhere from 97 F (36 C) to 99 F (37.2 C).
While a temperature higher than 100.4 F (38 C) is considered a fever, hypothermia is said to occur when the body temperature drops below 95 F (35 C). Hypothermia has a spectrum from mild to severe. Temperatures can vary, but mild hypothermia is typically considered a body temperature between 89 F–95 F; moderate hypothermia is a body temperature between 82 F–89 F; and severe hypothermia is a body temperature lower than 82 F.
Causes of Low Body Temperature
Body temperature can fall due to numerous reasons such as being exposed to cold weather or wearing wet clothing for a long time. On the other hand, abnormally low body temperature can also be a potential symptom of the following diseases and disorders:
- Addison’s Disease
- Kidney failure
- Liver failure
- Side effects of medications
So when your metabolism is low? You’ll start to see symptoms like these:
- Poor digestion and food intolerances
- Constipation or abnormal bowel movements
- Cold hands and feet
- Mood swings and instability
- Dry skin and/or skin disorders such as acne and eczema
- Sleep problems and insomnia
- Exhaustion and a “wired/tired” energy level cycle
Seek medical attention for anyone who appears to have hypothermia. Until medical help is available, follow these first-aid guidelines for hypothermia.
- Be gentle. When you're helping a person with hypothermia, handle him or her gently. Limit movements to only those that are necessary. Don't massage or rub the person.
- Move the person out of the cold. Move the person to a warm, dry location if possible. If you're unable to move the person out of the cold, shield him or her from the cold and wind as much as possible.
- Cover the person with blankets. Use layers of dry blankets or coats to warm the person. Cover the person's head, leaving only the face exposed.
It’s a smart idea to keep a thermometer on hand in case you need to check if you or someone you care for has a low body temperature. Hypothermia is a very dangerous health condition and immediate care is crucial to successful recovery. Remember that hypothermia is not just a risk of the winter or wilderness, so stay warm year-round, inside or out!