What Does A Low Temperature Mean? Could It Be Hypothermia

What Does A Low Temperature Mean

Shivering hands, chattering teeth, and the desperate hunt for another blanket – we’ve all experienced feeling cold. But what happens when that chill goes beyond mere discomfort?  

When a low body temperature starts to raise questions about your health, it’s time to investigate what those numbers on the thermometer really mean. Could it be something as serious as hypothermia? Keep reading to find out.

What Is Hypothermia?

Hypothermia is a dangerous medical condition that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Our normal body temperature rests around 98.6°F (37°C). When exposed to severe cold, overexertion in cold weather, or submersion in cold water, that internal temperature starts to drop. If it falls below 95°F (35°C), this signals the onset of hypothermia.

Stages of Hypothermia

Hypothermia develops gradually, with the severity of symptoms increasing as one’s body temperature drops further. Understanding these stages is important for recognizing the danger and taking action.


Stage 1: Mild Hypothermia (95°F – 91.4°F / 35°C – 33°C)

  • Shivering: Your body’s primary defense mechanism to generate heat.
  • Clumsiness, stumbling: Coordination begins to suffer.
  • Confusion, difficulty speaking: Early signs of impaired mental function.

Stage 2: Moderate Hypothermia (91.4°F – 82.4°F / 33°C – 28°C)

  • Shivering stops: A dangerous sign that the body is losing its battle.
  • Drowsiness, lack of energy: Mental sluggishness worsens.
  • Shallow breathing: A slowing respiratory system becomes concerning.
  • Loss of consciousness: Can occur in the later part of this stage.

Stage 3: Severe Hypothermia (Below 82.4°F / 28°C)

  • Unconsciousness: The person may no longer be responsive.
  • Weak, irregular pulse: The heart struggles to function.
  • Rigid muscles: The body may appear stiff.
  • Critical Condition: Requires immediate emergency medical attention.

Symptoms of High & Low Temperature

Your body’s temperature is a vital sign, and significant deviations from the normal range can signal underlying health issues. Let’s look at the typical symptoms associated with both high and low temperatures.

Symptoms of a High Temperature (Fever)

  • Elevated Temperature: A temperature above 100.4°F (38°C) is considered a fever.
  • Chills and Shivering: Your body attempts to generate heat to raise its temperature.
  • Sweating: A release mechanism to cool the body down.
  • Aches and Pains: Muscle and joint aches are common.
  • Flushed Skin: Your skin may appear red and feel warm to the touch.
  • Headache: Often accompanies a fever.
  • Dehydration: Increased sweating can lead to a loss of fluids.

Symptoms of Low Temperature (Hypothermia)

  • Shivering (in early stages): Your body’s effort to generate heat.
  • Clumsiness and Confusion: Impaired movement and thinking.
  • Slurred Speech: Difficulty speaking clearly.
  • Drowsiness and Fatigue: A sense of overwhelming tiredness.
  • Slow, Weak Pulse: A sign the heart is struggling.
  • Shallow Breathing: Breathing may become less frequent and shallow.
  • Loss of Consciousness (severe cases): A medical emergency.

What Infection Causes A Low Body Temperature?

While infections typically cause a fever (high temperature), there’s one severe condition where low body temperature can be a dangerous symptom.

Sepsis is a life-threatening complication of an already existing infection. When your immune system overreacts to an infection, it can trigger body-wide inflammation and organ damage. One of the potential symptoms of sepsis is a drop in body temperature (hypothermia).

What Is Your Temp Supposed to Be?

The average normal body temperature is generally accepted as 98.6°F (37°C). However, it’s important to understand that this is just an average, and there is actually a range of what’s considered “normal”:

Body temperature can fluctuate throughout the day, typically falling within the range of 97°F (36.1°C) to 99°F (37.2°C).

Factors that Influence Body Temperature:

  1. Time of Day: Temperature is usually lowest in the morning and rises slightly throughout the day.
  2. Age: Young children and older adults may have slightly lower average body temperatures.
  3. Activity Level: Physical activity will naturally raise your body temperature.
  4. Hormones: Menstrual cycles in women and certain medical conditions can influence temperature variations.

Is 36.6 degrees Celsius to Fahrenheit a fever?

No, 36.6 degrees Celsius is not a fever. In fact, it’s considered a normal body temperature. If we go for the conversion 36.6 degrees Celsius is equivalent to 97.88 degrees Fahrenheit, which falls comfortably within the normal range.

Is body temperature higher than forehead?

Your forehead temperature reflects the temperature of your skin, which is naturally cooler than your internal core temperature. The temperature across your body isn’t entirely uniform. Internal, or “core” temperature, is generally higher than surface-level temperatures, like your forehead. 

Forehead thermometers use infrared technology to measure the heat radiating from your skin. They are convenient but can be slightly less accurate than methods that measure your core temperature directly.

Forehead temperatures often read about 0.5°F (0.3°C) to 1°F (0.6°C) lower than oral temperatures.

What Can Cause A Low Temperature?

A low body temperature (hypothermia) can occur for a number of reasons, ranging from mild and temporary factors to serious underlying medical conditions. Here are some of the most common causes:

Environmental Factors:

Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, submersion in cold water, or inadequate clothing in cold weather can overwhelm the body’s ability to regulate temperature.

Medical Conditions:

  • Hypothyroidism: An underactive thyroid gland produces insufficient thyroid hormone, slowing metabolism and affecting temperature regulation.
  • Sepsis: A severe infection can lead to sepsis, a life-threatening condition that can cause a drop in body temperature.
  • Diabetes: Poorly managed diabetes can interfere with blood sugar regulation and contribute to low body temperature.
  • Adrenal Insufficiency: Damage to the adrenal glands can make it difficult for the body to respond to stress, including cold exposure.

Other Factors:

  • Age: Older adults and infants are more susceptible to low body temperature due to decreased muscle mass, less body fat, or inefficient temperature regulation.
  • Medications: Certain medications, like sedatives, antidepressants, or blood pressure medications, can interfere with temperature regulation.
  • Alcohol and Drug Use: Alcohol and certain drugs can impair judgment and suppress the body’s shivering response, increasing the risk of hypothermia in cold weather.
  • Malnutrition or Dehydration: Lack of proper nutrition and hydration can affect the body’s ability to generate heat.

Why Is My Urine Temperature Low

Urine is stored in your bladder at your internal body temperature (around 98.6°F or 37°C). However, when it leaves your body, it quickly begins cooling due to exposure to the air. This is why urine typically feels cooler than your body temperature when you urinate.

When you’re dehydrated, your body tries to conserve fluids, leading to concentrated urine that may feel slightly warmer than usual. Conversely, well-hydrated urine will generally feel cooler, as it’s composed of excess water being expelled.

What is the Lowest Temperature a Human Can Survive in Celsius

There is no single definitive answer to the question of the lowest survivable body temperature in Celsius. A brief exposure to extreme cold is much different from prolonged exposure. Age, health status, body composition, and even mental state play a role in how long someone can endure a cold.

However, according to records documented the the lowest survived body temperature is 13.7°C (56.7°F) in the case of a woman who nearly drowned in cold water. However, this is an extreme outlier with very specific circumstances.

Final Words

Your body temperature is an important indicator of overall health. Don’t dismiss persistent readings outside the normal range, particularly if you’re experiencing other concerning symptoms.  Prolonged exposure to cold can lead to hypothermia, a dangerous condition – familiarize yourself with the symptoms and seek urgent medical care if severe.  

If you have questions about low body temperature, speak to your doctor to rule out any underlying medical causes.  Remember, listen to the signals your body sends:  shivering, clumsiness, and confusion are often signs that it needs help staying warm. Take preventative measures, especially in cold weather, to avoid potential problems.

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