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Is it Normal to Have a Body Temperature Below 98.6?

Is it Normal to Have a Body Temperature Below 98.6?

Ever noticed your thermometer reading below the widely recognized “normal” adult body temperature of 98.6°F?  If so, you might have been left wondering if something was wrong with your health.

It’s a common question, and we hear it often at Wasatch Peak Family Practice in Layton, Utah. In fact, many patients come to our board-certified physicians with questions about deviations from “normal” body temperature. 

Before anxiety sets in, it's important to gain a broader understanding of body temperature and its variations. Keep reading as our team unpacks the truth behind the numbers and sheds some light on what's considered "normal" in terms of body temperature. 

What is ‘normal’ body temperature?

A reading of 98.6°F is traditionally taught as the benchmark for the average body temperature. However, the term “average” is what’s critical here.

Imagine standing in a room full of people. If you took the temperature of each person, you'd likely get a range of readings. Some would be a tad higher and some a bit lower than 98.6°F. The “average” is calculated based on all of these individual readings.

In reality, “normal” body temperature for a person can lie anywhere from 97°F to 99°F. Factors such as the time of the day, the method of measurement (oral, axillary, or rectal), and even your recent activities, like exercising or eating, can affect this number.

What if my body temperature is consistently low?

Variations in body temperature are perfectly natural. Think back to that room of people — everyone's metabolic rate, overall health, and genetic factors play a role in determining their personal “normal.”

But what about those people who consistently find their temperature readings hovering below the broader range of normal? Here’s a look at some factors that might influence your body temperature, keeping it consistently low:

Metabolic rate

Our metabolism isn't just about how fast we burn calories. It affects how our bodies produce heat. Some people naturally have a slower metabolic rate, leading to a consistently cooler body temperature.

Age

As we get older, our body's ability to regulate temperature can decrease. As a result, seniors might have a slightly lower body temperature than younger people.

Hypothyroidism

Your thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, plays a pivotal role in regulating your metabolic rate. An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can lead to reduced heat production and a lower body temperature.

Medications

Some medications, especially those used for hypertension or psychiatric conditions, can cause you to have a lower body temperature.

Imagine your body as a complex heating system. Many factors work to regulate its temperature. In other words, just as you'd set your home's thermostat to your comfort, these elements set your body's “thermostat” to its own level.

When should I seek medical help for my temperature?

Our bodies have a way of communicating with us, and it’s always good to listen. For this reason, if you're concerned about your body temperature or accompanying symptoms, it's important to speak with a health care provider. 

In the meantime, if you often feel unusually cold, even when those around you seem comfortable, or if you’ve noticed other symptoms accompanying your low temperature, such as those listed below, don't wait to set up an appointment. 

These signs, when combined with a consistently low body temperature, could be a sign of an underlying medical condition such as hypothyroidism. 

Your family physician at Wasatch Peak Family Practice is equipped to look at your health holistically. They're familiar with your health history and can guide you on the next steps, whether it be further tests or adjustments in lifestyle.


Have more questions or concerns about your body temperature? Schedule an appointment online or over the phone today at Wasatch Peak Family Practice.

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