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The Danger of Hyperthermia

Updated on October 3, 2015

What is Hyperthermia?

Have you ever been overheated in the summer or have had a high grade fever that just made you as hot as can be? If you can say that you have then you can say that you have experienced Hyperthermia. A large number of the world has experienced it and doesn't even know it by its name. Of course you've heard of Hypothermia, the condition that occurs during low reaching temperatures, but what is Hyperthermia?

Hyperthermia is an elevated body temperature caused by failed thermoregulation that occurs when the body produces or absorbs more heat than it dissipates. The temperature regulating mechanisms of the body eventually become so overwhelmed that they are unable to deal effectively with the atypical temperature, causing the body temperature to increase uncontrollably. Temperatures above 104 °F are considered life threatening and require immediate emergency medical care and treatment.

Hyperthermia can of course be caused by multiple factors and can range from minor in severity to life threatening. In short hypothermia is to cold as hyperthermia is to heat.

This condition can cause many different heat related injuries including up to death. The most common terminology people hear about is Heat Stroke and Heat Exhaustion but it can also be caused by various illegal and legal drugs that affect the central nervous system. It is also applicable to the condition called Malignant Hyperthermia that can rarely affect patients during surgical procedures.

This article, while focusing on the broad article of hyperthermia, will only touch upon hyperthermia as a whole. For data on relatable conditions and disorders please see further articles pertaining to such.

How Much Heat is Too Much?

The human body really is an amazing thing but most people fail to realize just how amazing when it comes to temperature. When you are hot in the summer the body sweats in order to lose excess heat and rid itself of excess chemicals. When you are sick the body fights the illness and combats the elevation in temperature. These things can become so common that people don't realize that the body does have limitation. A handy scale to remember what can happen can be thought out like this:

  • 111.2 °F - Or higher in temperature almost always causes certain death however the record for hyperthermia survival stands at 115.7 °F.
  • 109.4 °F - The body is susceptible to death with association brain damage. Shock, Seizures, and Cardio-Respiratory Collapese is likely.
  • 107.6 °F - Major damange begins to occur. The patient is usually in a coma, pale, flushed, and red. Seizures, Vomiting, and Delirium may be associated.
  • 105.8 °F - A life threatening temperature. Fainting, vomiting, headache, dizziness, confusion/delirium, hallucinations, and lethargy may occur.
  • 104.0 °F - At this point the event is life threatening. Fainting, dehydration, weakness, vomiting, headache and dizziness may occur. Sweating may cease.
  • 102.2 °F - High grade fever. Patient can suffer severe sweating, be flushed, and red in color. Infants are susceptible for Febrile Seizures.
  • 100.4 °F - General fever. Patient may feel hot/chills, might be sweating, may be feeling thirsty, may befeeling very uncomfortable, and slightly hungry.
  • 98.6 °F - This is the normal temperature of the human body. If your temperature isn't spot on don't worry. Temperature might vary between 97.0 °F and 99.6 °F and still be considered normal. At 99.7 °F generally a temperature is classified as a fever and chills and might be associated.

Care and Treatment of Hyperthermia

Hyperthermia can be minor and can be major. It's a condition that has a broad range of what it can do and what it can become. Without treatment minor hyperthermia can always become life threatening hyperthermia. If you suspect that you or someone you know is suffering from hyperthermia dial 9-1-1 and ensure they get the appropriate care and treatment necessary. In every case pertaining to hyperthermia the underlying issue causing the heat must be removed.

Mild hyperthermia such as becoming over heated on a summer day can be avoided by drinking water, eating proper meals, and taking appropriate breaks (even if it's as simple as sitting in the shade). Once the conditions are met and the signs and symptoms occur fluids (water only) can be given in sips. Rapid fluid intake such as gulping or shooting the water will cause vomiting. Remove the person from the condition and place them in a place where they can rest such as shade, inside with air conditioning, or anywhere out of the heat. I've personally found ice packs to be very helpful when applied to the back of a patient's neck (but be sure to instruct them to remove the ice pack when it gets too cold).

In the case of mild hyperthermia resulting from a drug interaction please call poison control: 1 (800) 222-1222

Any loss of consciousness is getting into the realms of life threatening. Look for signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. If sweating has stopped then the patient is at a very dangerous point. Call 9-1-1 immediately and advise the dispatcher that the patient is experiencing a heat related injury and that you suspect it to be life threatening.

Avoiding hyperthermia is as simple as being smart.

Ensure that you eat properly and hydrate with water (soda, tea, and etc sap the body of hydration needed). Make sure that you take breaks between working in the heat or enjoying your time in the sun and retreat to shady or cooled areas to cool off. Take your medications as normal but be vigilant on their side effects; some drugs make you more susceptible to heat. Always read the information given with your medications. Know your limits and do not push yourself.

Some Videos for Further Study

If you are a visual learner or require further documentation then these videos are for you. I specifically found the best ones on Youtube to this subject for your understanding. If this topic interests you I highly suggest you look at more topics in medicine and perhaps consider taking training as an EMT. We could always use more citizens with EMT training!

Basic First Aid - Heat Exposure

A Simple Disclaimer

The information presented in this hubpage is not intended to take the place of your personal physician’s advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Discuss this information with your own physician or healthcare provider to determine what is right for you. All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I and Hubpages in general cannot and do not give you medical advice. The information should not be considered complete and should not be used in place of a visit, call, consultation or advice of your physician or other health care provider. We do not recommend the self-management of health problems. Should you have any health care-related questions, call or see your physician or other health care provider promptly. You should never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here or on the internet.

If you think you or someone else is having a heat related injury please dial 9-1-1 and seek medical assistance without delay.

About the Author

My pen name is Teito and let me tell you about myself. I am an Emergency Medical Technician Basic who has been a member of various 911 and Specialty Resources in and around the states of PA and VA for nearly 10 years. I am a American Heart Association certified CPR/BLS Instructor as well as an active member of the National Registery of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT). I am an Air Force Veteran (2011-2015) who specialized as a Surgical Technologist and separated honorably to pursue higher education in the field of Criminal Justice and Counter Terrorism. I am an avid supporter of EMS classes being held in the high school environment and CPR skills in general being taught to everyone.


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