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Changes in Body Temperature as Death Approaches

As death nears, the part of the brain responsible for regulating body temperature fails. You may run a high temperature one moment or feel very cold. Your arms and legs may be very cold to the touch and even appear pale and blotchy. This change in skin color is called mottling and is very common in the hours or days before death.

Your caregivers can help control your fever by applying wet, lukewarm cloths to the skin (sponge bath) or by giving nonprescription medicines like:

  • Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol).
  • Ibuprofen (such as Advil).
  • Naproxen (such as Aleve).
  • Aspirin.

Many of these medications are available as a rectal suppository if you are unable to swallow.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Shelly R. Garone, MD - Palliative Medicine
Last Revised July 12, 2010

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 12, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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