My head is hot. My temp is low. What does this mean?
August 24, 2021 10:00 AM   Subscribe

Historically, I only rarely get fevers. But when I don't feel well, my temperature becomes lower than usual.

This has been happening a lot lately, and I wonder if it is my immune system fighting things off. Many months ago, for two weeks after I got my second COVID vaccination (Pfizer, if that matters) I had a headache and a burning forehead, but no fever, just a consistent 96-or-97-point-something temperature.

Recently my kid got sick, and I sort of got a mild cold/sickness from being around him. It wasn't bad, but this low temp, constant headache, burning head has been sticking around. Analgesics don't really do anything much for it (unlike when I have fevers and migraines, which usually respond quickly to Aleve or Tylenol.) I've asked my doctor in the past about my odd low temp situation, and she just sort of waves it off. The only thing I can really dig up from googling is that sometimes a low temp is a symptom of sepsis, and I know that if this was a symptom of sepsis, I would no longer be alive to care about it.

Have you experienced this? Is there an actual name for it, and is there a way to treat it so I feel more normal again? It isn't the worst thing ever but it isn't the best either.
posted by 41swans to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you know what your baseline temp is when you aren’t sick? Is it possible that you normally run at your sick temp, or even cooler than that?

AIUI average body temp is lower than 98.6 now, because average slightly-infected load is lower. And you could live on the low side of average.
posted by clew at 10:15 AM on August 24 [3 favorites]

I get a hot forehead or face feeling when I'm about to have a migraine. You may be in a low grade unremitting or 'intractable' one.

Mine only got diagnosed as proper migraines, and treated as such, after four days of nonstop pain that got bad enough to send me to the ER.
posted by cobaltnine at 10:32 AM on August 24 [1 favorite]

Are you a woman who could be in peri-menopause? For me, a burning face/head (hot flash/flush; no fever) was very symptomatic at some point on many days for several years, and sometimes a mild headache (though not a constant one).
posted by mmw at 10:37 AM on August 24 [3 favorites]

I get a low temp, too. The first time I noticed it, I had really bad fatigue and low temp, but no other symptoms. There was some kind of strep going around, but docs were hesitant to prescribe antibiotics (rightly so), and when they ran tests, nothing showed up. I was very frustrated that they had nothing to offer. I stayed home, stayed hydrated, and slept a lot for a few days. Then I developed a sore throat. I went back to the doc, and tests showed I needed antibiotics, which cleared everything right up. I suspect I had the strep that was going around the whole time, but my body wasn't doing a good job of fighting it at first.

Since then, whenever I get a low temp, I prescribe rest for myself. I either feel better after, or I feel worse but with a more "typical" and treatable set of symptoms.
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 10:39 AM on August 24 [2 favorites]

This is something I've had with menopause / hormones. Roasting, sweating, but lower or normal temperature. I also had this as a reaction to my vaccine but only in the few days following, I had a "fever" with a barely elevated temp. I have heard reports of the vaccine messing with hormone regulation.
posted by Crystalinne at 10:41 AM on August 24 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I can answer these questions! 1) my baseline temp is usually a little lower than 98.6, but not much lower. 2) I am about two months away from declaring myself no longer peri but actually menopausal. I have had the occasional hot flash, but this isn't it. There is no sweating involved with this low temp, burning-head, unwell feeling.
posted by 41swans at 10:42 AM on August 24

I don't know what this is called, but it me. I have been noticing it my whole life--certainly at least since I was a teen, when I would feel absolutely sick and fevery but had no technical "fever" and they'd make me go to school, the fuckers.

In covid-times we're obviously all hyperaware of any sick-feeling or fever-feeling so I have a lot of data points on this now, and it definitely seems linked to my migraines. I get the sense that it's part of a migraine-trying-to-happen, and sometimes it doesn't quite go full-blown. My migraines are definitely at least partly hormone-triggered, so if you're cruising into a new hormone phase maybe that's why you're having this more often.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:56 AM on August 24 [3 favorites]

This is what the early stages of a panic attack feels like to me. I feel extremely hot, but am cold to the touch. It sucks more now than ever because even if I’m able to identify that it’s a panic reaction, I can’t stop it as easily because now there’s the “WHAT IF” of covid behind every time it happens.
posted by furnace.heart at 1:12 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]

Are you taking your temp rectally? There can be a huge discrepancy.
posted by pintapicasso at 1:30 PM on August 24

I also am experiencing this right now, and I appreciate the people suggesting that it might be something to do with menopause. It's really dry where I am and I've been outside all day most days, which I think might be relevant.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:37 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]

If you take blood pressure meds, some of them impair sweating, but you still get hot, same with Benadryl. There might be others but I know those so Be extra careful about heat if you take those.
posted by ReiFlinx at 3:33 PM on August 24

This has been my pattern pretty much my whole life. I have often been sick, but had either no temperature, or will have a lower temperature than normal. Or, I would be terribly sick, and only have a temperature of 99. My doctor eventually believed me that this was a thing after being my doctor for a while, and took my other symptoms into account rather than my temperature. (So that one time my temperature actually was 100, he knew I was really seriously ill.)
posted by gudrun at 5:34 PM on August 24 [2 favorites]

I don't know if it's the same, but I tend to run about a degree low, and so if I'm up at 98.6, I may be starting to feel feverish. At 99.0, I definitely feel it. If I get up to 100, I'm close to or into chills. 102 is just absolutely miserable - Covid had me just above that, and I was SICK, but no one else thinks it's high enough to take seriously. The rest of my skin, though, tends to feel cooler than my head. (I've always been this way, at least from teenage years on, it's not something new to middle age for me.)
posted by stormyteal at 6:11 PM on August 24 [3 favorites]

I have struggled with this this past one and half year when anything below 100 is not noteworthy for doctors.

I even tell them my average temp remains around 96-97ish when I feel normal and then a 98+ Is definitely a temperature raise. But unfortunately since doctors don’t prescribe I avoid paracetamol. So I just rest, warm water, warm soup etc.

This also often comes with panic attacks and stress and sudden weather change. Sometimes I feel this is hay fever or internal fever. Or whatever it’s called. It’s frustrating as I feel what I feel and doctors simply discard all that.

Check with some doctor who’s willing to acknowledge that the age old average body temperature is probably not the same anymore and that it can be lower for some people. Tty to benchmark your body temperature on good days at different times. I’ve done it. Talk to your doctor about it. Check if there’s mild medication for such mild fevers.
posted by amar at 8:46 PM on August 24 [2 favorites]

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