A low body temperature (hypothermia) is a sign of poor health. This article highlights the causes, symptoms, and treatments of the same.
The human body has a mechanism of regulating its temperature. The body usually keeps its thermal reading within a safe range, despite temperature variations outside it. This temperature is not constant throughout the day, as it may vary according to the activities performed. Usually, it is low in the morning and slightly high in the evening. It can be measured on different parts of the body such as the mouth, ear, armpit, forehead, and rectum. The normal temperature of an individual can be slightly lower or higher than the ideal one, where all the organs of the body perform their functions with maximum efficiency. However, having a very low or high temperature constantly, is often an indication of an underlying medical problem.
Normal Temperature of the Body
The ideal temperature of the human body is 98.6 °F or 37.0 °C. However, normal temperature of the infants, children, adults, pregnant women, and elderly people may be slightly different. The normal range for oral measurement is 98.2±1.3 °F or 36.8±0.7 °C. A high temperature is referred to as ‘fever’, and it can be a symptom of an infection. The temperature of the body is one of the vital signs (like heart rate, blood pressure) that helps determine the health of an individual. Abnormal fluctuations of normal thermal readings are considered as signs of diseases and disorders.
Lower than Normal Body Temperature
The stability and equilibrium of the body, which one experiences during a normal temperature, can get affected by hypothermia. It is natural to have lower than normal temperature, if the body is exposed to very low atmospheric temperature. Apart from this, there exist several causes of this condition. If a person is affected by hypothermia, then it is important to know which disorders exhibit ‘low temperature’ as a distinguished symptom.
Following is a list of such diseases and disorders:
- Addison’s disease (deficiency of adrenal gland hormones)
- Diabetes (abnormal blood sugar levels)
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid leading to low thyroid levels)
- Kidney failure
- Liver failure
- Sepsis (bloodstream overwhelmed by bacteria due to widespread infection)
- Excessive use of certain medications like sedatives or diuretics
- Alcohol abuse (body’s ability to control heat loss gets affected)
- Drug abuse
- Undergoing a surgery
- Being under the effects of anesthesia
- Being on cold IV (intravenous) fluids
- Several other chronic conditions like anemia, hepatitis C, etc.
- Shivering or shaking might be the body’s natural response, wherein the body tries to heat up the muscles by overworking them.
- Dizziness or drowsiness
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting (depending upon the cause)
- Low blood sugar levels
- Headache, sweating, etc.
- Irregular or absent menstrual periods
- Excessive weakness
- Increased irritability and depression
- Changes in blood pressure levels
- Low blood pressure that falls further when standing, leading to dizziness or fainting
- Confusion, lack of coordination, inability to make decisions, etc.
- Slow heartbeat, shallow breathing, etc.
- Fingers and toes turning purple (common in frostbite)
- Slurred speech
If a person is affected by this condition, then he or she should wear warm clothes, cover the head, ears, feet, and hand with a warm cap, socks, shoes, and gloves. After knowing the exact cause, the doctor may prescribe medications to alleviate the symptoms. Airway rewarming, cavity lavage, etc., are some of the treatment methods which are usually followed for bringing back the temperature to a normal level.
The minor conditions can be managed with simple remedies like wearing warm clothes, drinking hot beverages, etc. In case of a frostbite, the person should be covered in blankets, and should be given hot drinks like tea, coffee, hot soups, etc., immediately. The condition needs prompt medical attention. Rubbing hands and feet also creates heat. Sitting by the fireplace might help improve the condition. A prolonged exposure to extreme cold can prove to be life-threatening.
Hypothermia is as bad as having a high temperature or fever. If the condition seems to persist for a long time, then it is better to consult a doctor immediately. This will ensure prompt treatment, and avoid serious health complications.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.