Environmental exposure (hyperthermia hot)

Head | General Practice | Environmental exposure (hyperthermia hot) (Disease)


Exposure to environmental heat can cause heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Heat stroke can cause heart and brain damage and result in death. The very young, very old, those with chronic illnesses, and the intoxicated are most susceptible.

Hyperthermia is an elevated body temperature due to failed thermoregulation. Hyperthermia occurs when the body produces or absorbs more heat than it can dissipate. When the elevated body temperatures are sufficiently high, hyperthermia is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment to prevent disability or death.

Symptoms depend on the severity of the heat illness.

Symptoms of mild heat illness may include swelling, dizziness, mild muscle aches, and nausea. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include dry mouth, dry skin, excessive thirst, fever, faintness, headache, severe muscle aches, nausea, palpitations, vomiting, and weakness and fatigue.

Causes and Risk factors

In the case of severe heat stroke, the person may become confused or hostile, and may seem intoxicated. Heart rate and respiration rate will increase (tachycardia and tachypnea) as blood pressure drops and the heart attempts to supply enough oxygen to the body. The decrease in blood pressure can then cause blood vessels to contract, resulting in a pale or bluish skin color in advanced cases of heat stroke. Some people, especially young children, may have seizures.

Eventually, as body organs begin to fail, unconsciousness and death will result.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Hyperthermia can be prevented in many cases through use of air conditioning and ventilation, as well as by ensuring that vulnerable persons drink extra water. In emergency cases of hyperthermia, injections of saline solution and rapid cooling of the body may be necessary. Also known as heatstroke and heat prostration. ...

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