What is hypothermia?

Normal body temperature fluctuates, but most adults should have a body temperature of at least 97.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Hypothermia, or dangerously low body temperature, is diagnosed when someone’s temperature drops below 95 degrees.

Your body temperature may drop if you are exposed to cold or have certain medical conditions. The body temperature of the elderly is naturally lower.

This article will explain what hypothermia is, how to measure it, and when to seek help.

normal body temperature range

Normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees. However, many factors can affect temperature. Normal body temperature ranges from approximately 97.8 degrees to 99.1 degrees.

Why does body temperature fluctuate?

If you take your temperature frequently, you may get different readings. Your body temperature fluctuates throughout the day based on hormonal and metabolic changes in your body. Your body temperature is usually highest at night.

Menstrual cycle, age, and activity can also affect temperature.

The reading also depends on where on your body you take your temperature. Rectal and ear temperatures are usually 0.5-1 degrees higher than oral readings, while armpits and forehead readings are usually 0.5-1 degrees lower.

Correct way to measure body temperature

To get accurate temperature readings, you need a good thermometer. Stick to a probe thermometer inserted into your mouth, rectum, or armpit. Or you can use an electronic forehead thermometer.

In general, electronic ear thermometers are considered less accurate than probe or forehead thermometers.

To get an accurate reading, it’s important to wait a while after activities that can affect your body temperature. Do not take your temperature:

  • within an hour of exercising or taking a hot bath
  • within 30 minutes of smoking
  • Within 30 minutes of drinking a hot or cold beverage
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Read the thermometer’s instructions and follow them closely. Most thermometers will beep to let you know when the temperature is being read.

What you should know about fever

Causes of hypothermia

Some people’s body temperature is naturally lower than others. Body temperature also decreases with age, so older adults are more likely to have a body temperature closer to 97 degrees.

Temperatures below 98 degrees may indicate a problem. Hypothermia can be caused by a medical condition, including an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) or low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

Too low a temperature can lead to a dangerous condition called hypothermia. The most common cause of hypothermia is exposure to cold air or water.

It can also be caused by medical situations such as surgery, and is sometimes deliberately used in medical settings to try to save someone after severe trauma.

Infections that cause headaches and fever

Signs and symptoms of hypothermia

When your temperature drops below 95 degrees, you will begin to experience signs and symptoms of hypothermia. At first, these are familiar responses to the cold. You will feel cold and start shivering. When hypothermia becomes severe, you may stop shaking. As hypothermia progresses, you will not be able to think or move clearly.

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Signs and symptoms of hypothermia are:

  • Puzzled
  • drowsiness
  • cold, pale skin
  • slowed heart rate and breathing
  • Uncontrolled shaking that progresses to no shaking at all
  • loss of coordination
  • weakness

People with hypothermia may lose consciousness or go into shock, so it’s important to seek help early, before symptoms develop.

What is a low-grade fever?

When to seek medical assistance

If you think you or someone you are with has hypothermia, call 911 right away. Hypothermia is a medical emergency.

It is best to talk to your healthcare provider if your temperature is consistently below 97 degrees or if you are often cold. Feeling cold all the time may seem like a small problem, but it can be a warning sign of other medical problems, such as hypothyroidism or problems with circulation.

It’s best to have a clear picture of your health so you can make lifestyle changes if necessary. For example, wear extra clothing to help you warm up.

Need help overcoming a fever phobia?


The standard healthy body temperature is 98.6 degrees. However, there is a range of normal body temperatures. Generally speaking, the body temperature of the elderly is lower than that of the young. Temperatures are generally lower in the morning than in the evening. If your temperature is consistently below 97 degrees, you should consult a healthcare provider.

Hypothermia is a serious medical condition diagnosed when your body temperature drops below 95 degrees. The most common cause of hypothermia is exposure to cold air or cold water, but it can also be triggered by medical conditions including low blood sugar. If you or someone around you has symptoms of hypothermia, call 911.

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Things You Should Know About Babies and Fever

VigorTip words

Your body temperature is not always exactly 98.6. However, if your temperature is persistently low, it may be a sign of an underlying medical condition. It’s best to talk with your healthcare provider to make sure your hypothermia isn’t a cause for concern. If you have ever been cold and have symptoms of hypothermia, call 911.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is a temperature of 96 degrees normal?

    Normal body temperature is 97-99 degrees. However, if you take your temperature under your armpit or on your forehead and it reads 96, you’re probably fine too. Temperature readings in these areas are lower than in the mouth, rectum, or ears. However, if you are cold or have symptoms of hypothermia. You should seek medical attention.

  • Can dehydration cause hypothermia?

    Dehydration can cause hypothermia and increase the risk of hypothermia. Not eating enough can also increase the risk of hypothermia, as does drinking alcohol.

  • What indoor temperature is too cold?

    Most health organizations recommend keeping indoor temperatures at 64 degrees or higher. Families with infants or older adults should keep the temperature at 68 degrees or higher, as younger and older adults have an increased risk of hypothermia.