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Hyperthermia: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors & How To Treat It

Hyperthermia refers to a group of several heat-related conditions that causes a rise in body temperature. If your body temperature is above 40°C, you are said to have hyperthermia. In this article, we will discuss what causes hyperthermia, its symptoms and how to diagnose and treat it.

What Causes Hyperthermia? [1]

When the body is unable to release enough heat to maintain normal body temperature, hyperthermia occurs.

The body has different ways to get rid of excess body heat, such as, through breathing, sweating and increasing blood flow to the surface of the skin. But, when the outside temperature is warm and humid than the inside of the body, it becomes difficult for the body to evaporate sweat and release its heat. This overheating leads to hyperthermia.

Stages Of Hyperthermia

  • Heat stress - It occurs when the body's core temperature begins to rise and it is unable to cool itself through sweating. This leads to serious complications such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke [2] .
  • Heat fatigue - If your body isn't used to extremely hot weather or hot working conditions, which makes you feel hot, thirsty and tired it is a sign of heat fatigue.
  • Heat syncope (fainting) - It happens when there is a drop in your blood pressure levels and the blood flow to the brain is temporarily reduced. It occurs when you exert yourself in a hot climate.
  • Heat cramps - It occurs when your body goes through intense exertion, resulting in electrolyte imbalance in the body. This leads to heat cramps in the abdomen, arm muscles, and leg.
  • Heat oedema - It happens when you stand or sit for a long time in the heat, causing the hands, ankles or lower legs to swell [3] .
  • Heat rash - If you are in the heat for a long time, small red bumps begin to appear which are known as heat rash.
  • Heat exhaustion - It occurs when the body can't cool itself and causes weakness, dizziness, thirst and difficulty in concentrating [2]

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Symptoms Of Hyperthermia

  • Mild dehydration
  • Excess sweating
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Light-headedness
  • Muscle cramps, spasms and pain
  • Cold, pale and wet skin
  • Difficulty in paying attention
  • Mild swelling of the feet and ankles
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Risk Factors Of Hyperthermia
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Underweight
  • Drinking excess alcohol
  • Diabetes
  • Heart, lung, kidney and liver conditions
  • Metabolic conditions
  • Chronic dehydration
  • Diabetes
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Low sodium diet
  • Immune-related conditions

Who Are At A Risk Of Hyperthermia

  • People working in hot environments, especially construction workers, farmers etc.
  • Fire-fighters
  • Athletes
  • People who work indoors around large ovens
  • Children and older adults

When To See A Doctor

If you experience irritability, confusion, weak or rapid pulse, fainting, and flushed skin consult a doctor immediately.

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Treatment Of Hyperthermia [4]

  • If the heat cramps last longer than one hour, seek immediate medical attention. The treatment for mild to moderate hyperthermia include:
  • Lying down and relaxing
  • Sipping cool water or an electrolyte drink
  • Taking a cool shower
  • Removing excess clothing
  • Running the wrists under cool water for 60 seconds
  • Sitting in an air-conditioned room
  • Placing ice packs under the arms and groin

If the hyperthermia is severe, you can be hospitalized for a few days until you are fully recovered.

How To Prevent Hyperthermia

  • Keep your body hydrated
  • Stay in a cool place
  • Wear light-coloured clothing when outdoors
  • Avoid hot, heavy meals
  • Avoid drinking alcohol
View Article References
  1. [1] Roussakow, S. (2013). The history of hyperthermia rise and decline. InConference Papers in Science(Vol. 2013). Hindawi.
  2. [2] Hifumi, T., Kondo, Y., Shimizu, K., & Miyake, Y. (2018). Heat stroke.Journal of intensive care,6, 30.
  3. [3] Sitprija V. (1979). Heat oedema: a clinical study.Postgraduate medical journal,55(648), 728–729.
  4. [4] Hynynen, K., Roemer, R., Anhalt, D., Johnson, C., Xu, Z. X., Swindell, W., & Cetas, T. (1987). A scanned, focused, multiple transducer ultrasonic system for localized hyperthermia treatments.International Journal of Hyperthermia,3(1), 21-35.
Story first published: Sunday, November 10, 2019, 9:00 [IST]
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