Lower-than-normal body temperature: A concern?

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Lower-than-normal body temperature: A concern?

Question

For the last several days, my body temperature has been around 96.9 F — according to an oral thermometer. Should I be concerned about it being too low?

Betty
Virginia

Answer

Probably not. Although normal human body temperature is usually stated as 98.6 F (37 C) orally, it actually ranges from 97.5 to 98.8 F (36.4 to 37.1 C). Some people have temperatures in the 96 F range and feel fine. Your body temperature is not considered dangerously low until it is below 95 F (35 C).

Mild reductions in body temperature are often temporary and don't indicate a serious problem or condition. For example, your temperature normally is lower in the morning than in the evening. The most common cause of a lower-than-normal body temperature is exposure to cold. But occasionally, a low body temperature can indicate an underlying problem or condition, such as:

  • Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
  • Diabetes
  • Adrenal gland insufficiency (Addison's disease)
  • Hypothalamus dysfunction
  • Liver failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Widespread infection (sepsis)
  • Excessive use of alcohol or illicit drugs
  • A side effect of certain medications, such as phenothiazines, barbiturates, opiates, clonidine, lithium and benzodiazepines

If your low body temperature persists, consult your doctor.

Last Updated: 01/19/2007
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