Hypothermia (Low Body Temperature)

Body temperature measures the body’s ability to create heat, and to get rid of it. Despite outside temperatures varying between very hot and very cold, the human body is great at keeping its temperature regulated. The body creates sweat when it is too hot to help cool the body. Alternatively, when the body is cold, it generates more heat by reducing blood flow to the skin. The body’s ability to regulate its own temperature keeps it at a narrow and safe degree range. A body’s temperature is a good indicator of health.

The normal core temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit represents the exact temperature that allows all the body’s functions to operate at optimal efficiency. Typically, the rectal or vaginal temperature are considered to be the core temperature. The average body temperature can vary from the low end of 97.7° Fahrenheit to the higher end of 99.5° Fahrenheit. It is abnormal for a body temperature to fall below or above this range. Body temperature can vary throughout the day and is incredibly sensitive to changes in hormone levels. It may be either higher or lower than normal when a female is going through hormonal changes by either ovulating or having a menstrual period.

Hypothermia can occur for several reasons. Hypothermia, or low body temperature, may happen after spending prolonged periods of time in very cold temperatures. Once the human body becomes too cold to regulate itself, its temperature drops, resulting in hypothermia. Hypothermia, however, can also be a symptom of the diseases or disorders such as diabetes, Addison’s disease, hypothyroidism, drug abuse, kidney or liver failure, infection, sepsis, shock, cancer, stress, and insomnia. It may also be a side effect from a medication.

While shivering and being cold is one of the most obvious symptoms of hypothermia, there are others to look out for. Shivering is typically accompanied by some degree of teeth chattering and goose bumps as well. Other symptoms may include slow heartbeat, dilated pupils, shallow breathing, weak pulse, drowsiness, purple extremities, lack of coordination, slurred speech, and tiredness.

The base metabolic rate determines the body’s core temperature. The control center for this is called the hypothalamus and is located in the center of the brain. The hypothalamus is alerted when the body is exposed to extremely cold or hot conditions, and reacts as needed to regulate the system.

Every bodily process requires metabolic energy. When the body is lacking the energy needed to function properly, it will slowly shut down or malfunction. Because of this a low body temperature equates to low metabolic energy, and less optimal usage of each organ.