What Body Temperature Is Too Low?

A normal body temperature fluctuates, but most adults should have a temperature of at least 97.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Hypothermia, or dangerously low body temperature, is diagnosed when someone’s temperature dips below 95 degrees.

Your body temperature can drop if you’re exposed to the cold or if you have certain medical conditions. Older people naturally have lower body temperatures.

This article will cover what body temperature is too low, how to take your temperature, and when to seek help. 

Young woman sleeping under blanket.

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Normal Body Temperature Range

A normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees. However, lots of factors can affect temperature. A normal body temperature can range between roughly 97.8 degrees and 99.1 degrees.

Why Does Body Temperature Fluctuate?

If you take your temperature frequently, you’ll likely get different readings. Your temperature fluctuates throughout the day based on hormonal and metabolic changes in your body. Your temperature is usually highest in the evenings.

Menstrual cycles, age, and activity can also impact temperature. 

The reading will also depend on where on the body you take your temperature. Rectal and ear temperatures are often 0.5–1 degree higher than oral readings, whereas armpit and forehead readings are often 0.5–1 degree lower.

The Right Way to Take Your Temperature

To get an accurate temperature reading, you need a good thermometer. Stick with a probe thermometer that you insert into your mouth, rectum, or armpit. Or you can use an electronic forehead thermometer.

In general, electronic ear thermometers are considered less accurate than probes or forehead thermometers. 

To get an accurate reading, it’s important to wait a while after activities that can impact your temperature. Don't take your temperature:

  • Within an hour of exercise or a hot bath
  • Within 30 minutes of smoking
  • Within 30 minutes of consuming a hot or cold drink

Read the instructions for your thermometer and follow them closely. Most thermometers will notify you with a beep when it's time to read the temperature.

Causes of Low Body Temperature

Some people naturally have a lower body temperature than others. Body temperature also decreases with age, so older people are more likely to have temperatures that are closer to 97 degrees.

Temperatures that are lower than 98 degrees may indicate that something’s wrong. Low body temperature can be caused by medical conditions, including an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) or low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). 

Having a temperature that’s too low can lead to a dangerous condition called hypothermia. Hypothermia is most often caused by being exposed to cold air or water.

It can also be caused by medical situations like surgery and is sometimes intentionally used in a medical setting to try to save someone after severe trauma.

Signs and Symptoms of Hypothermia

When your body temperature dips below 95 degrees, you’ll begin to experience signs and symptoms of hypothermia. At first, these will be familiar responses to the cold. You'll feel chilled and begin shivering. When hypothermia becomes severe, you may stop shivering. As hypothermia progresses, you will be unable to think clearly or move.

The signs and symptoms of hypothermia are:

  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Cold, pale skin
  • Slowed heart rate and breathing
  • Uncontrolled shivering, progressing to not shivering at all
  • Loss of coordination
  • Weakness

People with hypothermia can lose consciousness or go into shock, so it’s important to seek help early before symptoms progress. 

When to Seek Medical Attention

If you believe that you or someone you're with has hypothermia, call 911 immediately. Hypothermia is a medical emergency.

If you consistently have a body temperature below 97 degrees, or constantly feel cold, it’s a good idea to talk with your healthcare provider. Feeling cold all the time might seem like a minor complaint, but it can be a warning sign of other medical issues, like a slow thyroid or circulation concerns.

It’s best to get a clear understanding of your health so you can implement lifestyle changes, if necessary. For example, wearing additional layers to help you warm up. 

Summary

The standard healthy body temperature is 98.6 degrees. However, there is a range of normal body temperatures. In general, older people have lower temperatures than younger individuals. Temperature is generally lower in the morning than it is at night. If you consistently have a temperature lower than 97 degrees, you should speak with a healthcare provider.

Hypothermia is a serious medical condition diagnosed when your temperature dips below 95 degrees. Hypothermia is most often caused by being exposed to cold air or cold water, but it can also be triggered by medical conditions including low blood sugar. If you or someone around you is experiencing symptoms of hypothermia, call 911. 

A Word From Verywell 

Your temperature won’t always be at exactly 98.6. However, if you consistently have a low body temperature, it might be a sign of an underlying medical condition. It’s best to talk to your healthcare provider to make sure your low body temperature isn’t a cause for concern. If you have been exposed to the cold and are experiencing symptoms of hypothermia, call 911. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it normal to have a temperature of 96?

    A normal body temperature is 97–99 degrees. Yet, if you take your temperature in your armpit or on your forehead and get a reading of 96, you may be fine also. Those areas give lower temperature readings than the mouth, rectum, or ear. However, if you’re feeling cold or experiencing symptoms of hypothermia. you should seek medical attention.

  • Does dehydration cause low body temperature?

    Dehydration can contribute to low body temperature and increase your risk of hypothermia. Not eating enough can also raise your risk of hypothermia, as can drinking alcohol.

  • What indoor temperature is too cold?

    Most health organizations recommend that the indoor temperature be kept at 64 degrees or higher. Homes with infants or elderly people should keep the temperature at 68 degrees or higher since young and old people are at added risk of hypothermia.

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4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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