What Body Temperature Is Too Low? Hypothermia

Reviewed on 9/30/2020

Fever with high temperature
Hypothermia is a medical emergency, which if left untreated can lead to brain damage and cardiac failure.

Body temperature below 95°F (35°C) is considered abnormally low, and the condition is known as hypothermia. This happens when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat.

Hypothermia is a medical emergency, which if left untreated can lead to brain damage and cardiac failure.

What is the average normal body temperature?

The average normal body temperature is 98.6°F (37°C).

The normal body temperature can be anywhere between 97°F (36.1°C) and 99°F (37.2°C) in different individuals.

What causes low body temperature?

Low body temperature (hypothermia) occurs when heat loss from the body is higher than heat produced in the body. It is most commonly caused by exposure to cold-weather conditions or cold water.

Conditions that can cause hypothermia include:

  • Wearing clothes that fail to keep you warm in cold conditions
  • Spending prolonged periods in cold weather (without adequate protection)
  • Living in a house that's too cold (due to either poor heating or lower temperatures of the air conditioner)
  • Falling into the cold water

What are the first signs and symptoms of low body temperature?

11 Common signs and symptoms of hypothermia include:

  1. Shivering (the first and the most common sign)
  2. Slurring of speech
  3. Cold palms and feet
  4. Slow, shallow breathing
  5. Weak pulse
  6. Clumsy movements
  7. Drowsiness
  8. A confused state of mind
  9. Transient memory loss
  10. Loss of consciousness
  11. Bright red, cold skin (in babies)

What things put you at a risk of low body temperature?

Not everybody who is exposed to the cold develops hypothermia. Age factor and your tolerance levels play a role in how your body responds to the outer environment.

Several factors that increase your risk of hypothermia include:

  • Fatigue: How well you tolerate the outside cold also depends on your energy levels. Exhaustion makes cold temperatures more unbearable for you.
  • Old age: With aging, your body becomes less able to tolerate and sense low temperatures in the external environment.
  • Very young age: Children, especially infants, lose heat faster than adults. 
  • Alcohol and recreational drugs: Although alcohol makes you feel warm inside for a while, it results in rapid loss of heat from your body. Both alcohol and drugs affect your judgment, and you can end up in cold conditions without realizing what it can lead to.
  • Medical disorders: 
  • Psychiatric illness: Mental disorders hamper with your ability to judge what is right for you, and hence, you may get stranded in cold conditions without taking adequate care of yourself.
  • Medications:

QUESTION

What percentage of the human body is water? See Answer

What to do if hypothermia occurs?

If you find anyone affected with hypothermia, here are eight first-aid tips that you can follow until medical treatment is initiated:

  1. Do not massage or rub the person’s body
  2. Shift the person from the cold to a warm environment
  3. Remove wet clothing and cover the person (except for the face) with blankets 
  4. Lay the person on a warm surface (blanket or bed)
  5. Provide warm, sweet liquids (avoid coffee, alcohol)
  6. Use warm, dry compress (only on the neck, chest wall, or groin and not on the arms or legs)
  7. Do not apply direct heat (no hot water or placing a hot-water bag on the person’s body)
  8. Provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) when necessary (when breathing and pulse is undetectable)

How can you prevent hypothermia?

Before venturing out during a cold spell, follow the acronym COLD (cover, overexertion, layers, dry) to prevent hypothermia. Here is what you should do for yourself and your child:

  • Cover: Wear protective coverings, especially over the head, face, and neck.
  • Choose mittens over gloves to cover the hands.
  • Overexertion: Know your limits. In an extremely cold environment, avoid activities that cause you to sweat a lot.
  • Layers: Wear layers of clothing that should have
    • Loose-fitting,
    • Lightweight, and
    • an inner layer of wool or silk material
  • Dry:
    • Dry yourself as quickly as you can if you get wet.
    • Wear mittens and boots that can keep off the snow from your hands and feet to avoid getting frostbite.

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References
References:

Body temperature norms. Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001982.htm#

Hypothermia. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothermia/symptoms-causes/syc-20352682#:~:text=Hypothermia%20is%20a%20medical%20emergency,95%20F%20(35%20C).

Prevent Hypothermia & Frostbite. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/staysafe/hypothermia.html#:~:text=What%20is%20hypothermia%3F,leads%20to%20lower%20body%20temperature

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