Science Questions

Sun, 12th Dec 2004

Part of the show Superbugs, MRSA, Phages & Bdellovibrio.


Alex asked:

Is it normal for you to have a body temperature lower than 36.7celsius ?


Normal body temperature is 37?C. This is set by part of your nervous system and the hypothalamus, which is found in the brain stem. The hypothalamus monitors your body temperature and changes it if it becomes too hot or too cold. Your body temperature doesn't have to be exactly 37?C: exercise can make you hotter, while going outside on an icy day can make you cooler. The place in which you measure your temperature is very important. Putting a thermometer under your armpit will show you your peripheral temperature, and this can be quite a bit lower than your 'real' body temperature called your core temperature, or the temperature at the centre of your body. This varies very little at all in day to day life. It can best be measured by putting a thermometer in your bottom! You have to get very cold to change your core temperature, such as being stuck in freezing weather for a long time. People who have a drop in core body temperature have what is known as hypothermia. This makes them drowsy, and if left untreated, they will eventually become unconscious. When the body is cold, the chemical reactions that provide your cells with energy don't work as well. This makes cells function abnormally and, if prolonged, can be fatal.


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