Abnormally low body temperature in children is a medical concern that should be addressed as soon as possible. While exposure to cold surrounding is a prime cause for hypothermia, a child diagnosed with severe infections, septic shock, or anemia may also experience low body temperature.
The human body is capable of regulating body temperature within the normal range, irrespective of the surrounding condition. This natural mechanism is known as thermoregulation, and is a part of thermostasis. Body temperature is measured with the help of a calibrated thermometer. The value is represented in Celsius or Fahrenheit scale, depending upon which type of thermometer is being used for the purpose of measurement. Just like normal blood pressure and pulse rate, the body temperature is a vital sign used for monitoring general health condition.
What is Considered to be Low Body Temperature in Children?
Before we deal with low temperature in children, let’s try to understand what is normal body temperature for children. It is to be borne in mind that, the value of normal temperature varies according to age, measurement time, and area of measurement. It is found to be lowest in early morning period (between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m.), while highest body temperature is recorded in evening time (between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.). Likewise, temperature value for rectal measurement is higher, as compared to that of oral or axillary readings.
A rectal thermometer is commonly used for measuring body temperature in children. The clean tip of the device is positioned carefully in the child’s rectum. However, temperature reading can also be taken orally, axillary, or by placing thermometer in the ear. For oral measurement, the normal body temperature for children is 98.6 °F, while 99.6 °F is considered normal, if measurement is done in the temporal artery. Fluctuation in the body temperature by 1 °F is considered normal. But, if the rectal temperature reading for a child is 97° F or below, hypothermia is diagnosed.
What Causes Low Body Temperature in Kids?
In spite of the thermoregulation process, body temperature becomes abnormal under certain conditions. Say for instance, higher than normal body temperature (hyperthermia) is an indication of infection, and inflammatory responses. A slight elevation is expected if the child participates in activities just before checking temperature. Most parents are familiar with fever or elevated body temperature in children. However, not many of them know about the incidences of low temperature in children. Abnormally, low body temperature is medically referred to as hypothermia.
A case of low temperature in children is equally terrifying like running high temperature, and should not be neglected at any cost. But, what are the causes of low temperature in children? Both internal and environmental factors influence the body temperature of a child, or an adult, at any given time. Exposure to cold environmental conditions for an extended period is a leading cause of lowered body temperature. Thus, wearing extra clothes and woolen apparels during winter months is a must for maintaining normal temperature in minors.
In addition to cold surroundings, some diseases adversely affect the body’s ability to control temperature, thus causing body temperature to fall below the normal range. Probable reasons for causing abnormally low temperature in children are excess loss of blood due to accidental injuries, septic shocks, and side effect of medicines taken to counteract fever. Also, hypothermia is manifested as a physical sign for low red blood cells (anemia), low blood sugar level (hypoglycemia), and abnormal thyroid function (hypothyroidism).
Rarely, low body temperature in children is caused due to underlying infections. This holds true for weak children, who have a compromised immune system. When body temperature reduces significantly, the blood vessels contract involuntarily, as a means to conserve heat energy. This brings about rapid muscle contraction and body shivering to increase body temperature. Signs of hypothermia in children are cold skin, pale skin color, drowsiness, lethargy, confusion, slow breathing rate, weak pulse, and at times, collapse. If a child experiences these symptoms, act fast for generating body heat, and seek medical attention.
For prevention of low body temperature in kids, parents should make sure that their child wears clothing suitable to the prevailing climatic conditions. Make sure you check their body temperature periodically so as to avoid any medical situation. If required, wrap them with blankets or other thick insulting materials. Last but not the least, feed the child with hot sips to encourage relaxation, and restore normal body temperature quickly.