Hypothermia occurs when the
body gets cold and loses heat faster than the body can make it.
A rectal temperature is considered the most accurate body temperature. A normal rectal
body temperature ranges from
97.5°F (36.4°C) to
99.6°F (37.6°C), and for most
people it is 98.6°F (37°C).
For information on how to take an accurate temperature, see the topic Body Temperature.
Sometimes a normal, healthy adult has a low body temperature, such as
96°F (36°C). If the person with
the low body temperature is not ill, does not have any other problems, and is
not an infant or an older adult, then evaluation usually is not needed.
What can cause hypothermia?
Hypothermia can occur
when you are exposed to cold air, water, wind, or rain.
temperature can drop to a low level at temperatures of
50°F (10°C) or higher in wet
and windy weather, or if you are in
60°F (16°C) to
70°F (21°C) water. If you have
mild hypothermia, home treatment may be enough to bring your body temperature
back up to normal.
What are the symptoms?
Cold, pale, or
Lack of interest or concern
Mild unsteadiness in balance
Numb hands and fingers and
problems performing tasks.
Shivering, which may stop if body temperature
drops below 90°F (32°C).
What can happen from hypothermia?
an emergency condition and can quickly lead to unconsciousness and death if
heat loss continues. It is very important to know the symptoms of hypothermia
and get treatment quickly. Often a hiker or skier's body temperature will drop really low before others notice that something is wrong. If someone begins to shiver violently, stumble, or
can't respond to questions, it may be hypothermia and you need to warm him or her
For information about when to seek medical care, see the topic Cold Temperature Exposure.