MadSci Network: General Biology

Re: Is it normal for a person's body temperature to remain 96 degrees or lower

Date: Thu Jan 16 19:02:19 2003
Posted By: David Winsemius, M.D., BA (physics), MPH
Area of science: General Biology
ID: 1042687183.Gb

Measuring body temperature is not a easy as you might think. The usual 
method of putting a thermometer under the tongue requires that it be left 
in the right position and be left long enough to read accurately. Usually 
that takes 2 minutes. The average value for humans is 98.6 F. or 37 C. but 
there is some variability around that average. Half of the world will have 
average values below that number, half will have averages above it. The 
first thing to ask is whether the measurement is being done properly and 
with an accurate thermometer.

There is also a natural variation during the day. Body temperature is 
lower in the morning and highest on average in the afternoon. Morning 
temperatures might be as low as 96.0 normally.

Your question is about "96 degrees". By that do you mean 96.0? If a 
person's temperature was consistently below 96.0 degrees, it it probably 
below the "normal range". This can happen when a person is hypothyroid or 
with starvation. 

Here is a link to a page on hypothermia. It is mostly about hypothermia 
due to exposure to cold conditions, though: 

Other symptoms of hypothyroidism are dry skin, thin hair, changes in 
menstrual function, tiredness, thickening of the tongue and hoarseness. 
Hypothyroidism used to be tested by measuring "basal body tempreature", 
but there were a lot of incorrect diagnoses using that method. There is 
now a simple blood test for hypothyroidism, called TSH or thyroid 
stimulating hormone. When the thyroid is not able to make enough thyroid 
hormone, the brain's hypothalamus and pituitary release extra TSH to get 
the thyroid more active. High levels of TSH mean the brain thinks there is 
a low level of thyroid. In this matter, the brain is usually right.

An exception the the "brain know right" occurs when the pituitary is not 
working right. The you can have a condition called hypopituitarism. It is 
a lot more unusual than hypothyroidism.

David Winsemius, MD

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