Hypothermia is a body temperature that is lower than normal. It may need immediate medical care.
Hypothermia occurs when your body loses more heat than it can make. It is often the result of being in very cold temperatures. Other things that can cause very low body temperatures include:
The risk of hypothermia is higher in:
Some medicine and illnesses can also make it harder for the body to stay warm.
Symptoms often build over time. It will cause problems with mental and physical ability. Common signs of hypothermia are:
Shivering is the body trying to warm itself. It is a sign of severe hypothermia when shivering stops. Confusion and drowsiness may also increase. Without care the heartbeat will slow down, become irregular, and eventually stop.
Normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius). Hypothermia is a body temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius) or lower. Only a special rectal thermometer can confirm that someone has this.
Quick care is important for someone with hypothermia. Immediate steps include:
A person with severe hypothermia may be unconscious. It may be hard to find a pulse. In some cases, people can be saved even though they appear dead. Seek medical care.
If you are planning to spend time outside, take the following precautions:
Older adults, babies, and young children can get hypothermia indoors. Make sure rooms are warm enough and they have proper clothing.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
American Heart Association
Canadian Red Cross
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Accidental hypothermia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/accidental-hypothermia/. Updated February 21, 2017. Accessed February 7, 2020.
Hypothermia. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/injuries-poisoning/cold-injury/hypothermia. Updated April 2016. Accessed February 7, 2020.
Winter weather FAQs. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/faq.asp. Updated November 26, 2013. Accessed February 7, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD Last Updated: 7/29/2020