Normal body temperature in adult men and women measured orally ranges from 92-101 °F (33.2-38.2°C). If temperature is measured rectally it normally ranges between 94-100°F (34.4 and 37.8 °C). In case the temperature is below the previously mentioned limits the person is considered suffering from hypothermia. Abnormally low body temperatures are serious and can be life-threatening and this is why they require proper and immediate medical attention.
What are Common Causes of Low Body Temperature?
Once the person is exposed to cold weather the blood vessels on the periphery constrict. This leads to reduction of blood flow in the skin and consequent conservation of the body heat. What follows is shivering, a body reaction that helps in production of heat necessary to keep the safe range of body temperature. The most common cause of low body temperature is actually exposure to cold temperatures. However, the drop in body temperature may be also associated with certain medical conditions such as hypothyroidism, Addison's disease, dysfunction of the hypothalamus, diabetes, sepsis or wide spread infection, liver failure, kidney failure, drug or alcohol abuse. In some cases low body temperature may occur due to intake of some medications.
Clinical Characteristics of Low Body Temperature
In case a person has low body temperature he/ she is typically drowsy and confused. The heart beats slower and there is low and shallow breathing, the body is shivering and the person feels weak. And finally, due to constriction of the peripheral blood vessels there is evident peripheral cyanosis.
Low body temperature is also associated with some serious complications such as cardiac arrest, atrial or ventricular fibrillation, acute pancreatitis, electromechanical dissociation and raised plasma and serum levels.
Treatment for Low Body Temperature
In case of mild hypothermia the doctor tries to identify the underlying cause and treat the patient accordingly. On the other hand, serious cases of hypothermia (caused by exposure to cold temperatures) require immediate help, hospitalization and proper treatment. The person must be warmed which is achieved with blankets and any other medical devices that keep the warmth of the blood. The prognosis depends on patient's general health and period of exposure to cold temperatures. In case the body temperature does not drop below 90F the prognosis is good and there is a chance for complete recovery. However, in case the temperature drops 80-90F the chance for compete recovery is reduced and there is a risk for some permanent damage. And finally, if the temperature falls below 80F in many cases patients simply do not survive.