- Hypothermia Causes
- 14 First Signs & Symptoms
- 7 Risks
- 8 First-Aid Tips
- How to Prevent Hypothermia
- Fever Temperature
- When to Visit a Doctor
- Fever Causes
Body temperature below 95°F (35°C) is considered abnormally (dangerously) 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.
- A body temperature of 96.6 F (35.9 C) is considered low. However, if an adult has a body temperature this low but is not ill and does not have any other symptoms, they do not need to see a doctor or go to the ER. Older adults and infants with a body temperature of 96.6 F (35.9 C) should be evaluated.
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 (hypothermia)?
14 Common signs and symptoms of hypothermia include:
- Shivering (the first and the most common sign)
- Slurring of speech
- Cold and numb hands, fingers, and feet with difficulty performing tasks.
- Slow, shallow breathing
- Weak pulse
- Clumsy movements
- Lack of interest and concern (apathy)
- Drowsiness or sleepiness
- A confused state of mind
- Transient memory loss
- Loss of consciousness
- Muscles becoming stiff
- The body is too cold to touch
- 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 factors and 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:
- Hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid)
- Poor nutrition
- Anorexia nervosa (an eating disorder in which a person eats a lot and then vomits out voluntarily)
- Parkinson's disease
- Trauma to spine
- Psychiatric illness: Mental disorders hamper your ability to judge what is right for you, and hence, you may get stranded in cold conditions without taking adequate care of yourself.
- Certain antidepressants (medicines that treat depression)
- Narcotic pain medications (codeine, fentanyl, and morphine)
- Sedatives (medicines that put you to sleep)
What should I do if my body temperature is too low (hypothermia)?
If you find anyone affected with hypothermia, here are eight first-aid tips that you can follow until medical treatment is initiated:
- Do not massage or rub the person’s body
- Shift the person from a cold to a warm environment
- Remove wet clothing and cover the person (except for the face) with blankets
- Lay the person on a warm surface (blanket or bed)
- Provide warm, sweet liquids (avoid coffee and alcohol)
- Use warm, dry compress (only on the neck, chest wall, or groin and not on the arms or legs)
- Do not apply direct heat (no hot water or placing a hot-water bag on the person’s body)
- Provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) when necessary (when breathing and pulse are 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
- Lightweight, and
- an inner layer of wool or silk material
- 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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What body temperature is considered a fever?
A fever is defined as a body temperature that is higher than normal. The normal body temperature, however, varies slightly among different individuals. The average normal body temperature is 98.6°F (or 37°C).
- For adults, a fever is when the body temperature is higher than 100.4°F.
- For children, a fever is when their body temperature is more than 100.4°F (measured rectally), 99.5°F (measured orally), or 99°F (measured under the arm).
Having a fever means the body’s immune system is fighting against infections. This is a good sign in most cases. If the fever is between 100.4 and 102°F, it is considered a low-grade fever. A low-grade fever may not require treatment in most cases. If the body temperature goes beyond 102°F, treatment is essential.
When should one visit a doctor for the treatment of a fever?
A fever between 100.4 and 102°F is considered a low-grade fever. A low-grade fever may not require treatment in most cases. Treatment for a low-grade fever is needed if the fever occurs in very young infants (less than three months of age) or if it’s accompanied by serious symptoms such as confusion or inability to eat or drink without vomiting or stomach upset.
One must visit a doctor for fever management if
- A fever is accompanied by neck stiffness, confusion, or irritability.
- A fever remains above 103°F (39.5°C) for more than two hours after home treatment.
- A fever lasts longer than two days.
- A fever is accompanied by a rash.
- There is photophobia (intolerance to light).
- There are signs of dehydration such as less amount of urine, sunken eyes, and absence of tears.
- The person gets seizures or any abnormal movements or becomes unresponsive.
If a fever rises above 105°F (or 40.5°C) and does not come down with treatment, urgent medical help must be sought because it is a life-threatening emergency.
What causes a fever?
The body has an internal thermostat that regulates body temperature, usually around 98.6°F, despite the changing temperature in the surroundings. Any infection or stress can “reset” the thermostat causing a fever. A fever does not mean disease. It is rather a sign that the immune system is actively trying to fight an illness or infection. When someone has a fever, the body temperature increases, making it harder for bacteria or viruses to survive.
Some of the common causes of fever are as follows
- Common cold
- Ear or throat infections
- Urinary tract infections (UTI)
- Mononucleosis is a contagious illness that is most commonly caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and certain other infections. It is also called “the kissing disease” because it spreads easily through body fluids such as saliva.
- Medicines such as certain antibiotics, blood pressure medicines, and anti-seizure medications
- Autoimmune diseases such as lupus
- Certain childhood immunizations
- Menstrual periods
- Heavy clothing
- Rigorous exercise
- Dehydration, especially in newborns
What is the best way to measure a fever?
The best way to measure a fever or body temperature is by using a thermometer. It can be inserted into the mouth (orally), into the rectum (rectally), or under the arm (axillary).
A fever can also be recorded by using a special instrument, commonly available in stores, that is inserted in the ear and records the eardrum temperature.
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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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