Hypothermia happens when your body temperature drops way below normal, causing the circulatory, respiratory, and nervous systems to slow down. Normal body temperature is around 98.6°F (37°C). Hypothermia happens if your temperature drops to 96°F (35.5°C) or below.

Hypothermia often happens gradually, but it can happen within minutes, such as if someone falls through the ice into cold water. Then your body starts to lose heat faster than it can produce it. Severe hypothermia can cause an irregular heartbeat, which can lead to heart failure and death. More than 700 deaths in the United States each year are caused by hypothermia and frostbite.

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Review Date: 11/20/2016  

Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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