Hyperthermia is a condition characterized by a higher body temperature than normal. Even though many of you think that hyperthermia is just the same as fever, it is not. Normally, in fever, the human body tends to fight the infection by increasing the body temperature. However, in cases of hyperthermia, the body’s temperature increases without a reason. Rather, the regulating mechanisms of the body for temperature become overrun, making it hard to eliminate the heat.
What Are the Causes of Hyperthermia?
The human body perspires in hot weather or during vigorous physical activity. This perspiration evaporates from the skin, allowing the body to cool down. In cases of an intense and prolonged exposure to heat, the human body may lose its ability to respond efficiently and cool down. This can cause hyperthermia.
Many factors play an important role in being overexposed to heat for a long period of time, such as not drinking enough fluids during the day, living in places with no air condition, overdressing, etc.
Health factors which can cause hyperthermia include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Lung disease
- Poor circulation
- Inefficient sweat glands
- Reduced sweating
- Being overweight or underweight
- Consuming alcohol, etc.
Symptoms of Hyperthermia
After knowing the causes of hyperthermia, what are the symptoms of the condition?
The symptoms are listed below. Among them, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are the most common forms of hyperthermia. Heat stroke is a serious condition which requires immediate medical help.
- Heat stress is a condition characterized by a strain on the body due to hot weather.
- Heat fatigue is a condition characterized by weakness due to high temperatures. A person with a heat fatigue has a moist, cool skin with a weakened peripheral pulse. A person with a heat fatigue may even faint.
- Heat syncope is a sudden weakness, dizziness, and fainting due to high outdoor temperatures. The skin of the affected person is moist, cool, pale and sweaty at the same time. The heart rate is higher while the peripheral pulse is weakened. The body temperature still remains normal regardless of the exposure to high outdoor temperatures.
- Heat cramps are muscle spasms occurring in the lower or upper extremities or even abdomen. These muscle spasms occur due to a lack of salt in the human body because of heat exposure.
- Heat exhaustion is a condition in which the affected person gets thirsty, weak, uncoordinated. He/she also experiences nausea while sweating profusely. The pulse is normal or even raised. The skin is clammy and cold, while the body temperature still remains normal.
- Heat stroke is a life-threatening situation which requires proper and immediate medical help. The body temperature increases, usually higher than 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Other signs and symptoms of heat stroke include faintness, rapid and strong pulse, confusion, bizarre behaviors, possible delirium and even coma. If not treated on time, high body temperature can lead to irreversible damages of the brain.
How to Treat Hyperthermia
First of all, when treating hyperthermia, it is very important to determine the underlying causes of hyperthermia.
- If the cause of hyperthermia is overexposure to the sun, moving into a cool and shaded place is necessary. Drinking plenty of water at the same time will help relieve the signs and symptoms of hyperthermia. It is very important to avoid alcoholic drinks and caffeine.
- If hyperthermia occurs from an administration of a drug, a prompt termination of the drug administration is required. Various antipyretic medications available on the market today such as Ibuprofen or Paracetamol will help diminish hyperthermia.
- Cooling techniques are another treatment option of hyperthermia. Staying in a cool, air- conditioned or shaded area while wearing comfortable and light clothing are also helpful. Using a cooling fan, air conditioner or even having a sponge bath with cool water will help lower the body temperature, regardless of the causes of hyperthermia.
- Another option to get rid of the high body temperature over a short amount of time is immersing in a tub of cool water. Vasoconstriction effect of cool water prevents the heat from breaking out of the body. Applying a cold and wet cloth in certain parts of the body such as in the groins, armpits, neck, or wrists will help cool down the body’s temperature.
- In severe cases of hyperthermia, especially in cases of heat stroke, hospitalization is required. The treatment in these cases includes intravenous liquids, iced saline or even hemodialysis.
How to Prevent Hyperthermia
Certain measures can help prevent hyperthermia:
- Avoid overexposure to the sun.
- Drink plenty of fluids a day.
- Wear light cotton clothes.
- Stay in a cool and shaded area.
- Avoid activities that will increase the body heat.
- Take a shower during hot and humidity times.
- Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages as well as caffeinated beverages.