Hyperthermia is the condition when the body is unable or has no effective ways left to lower down the body temperature in extensive heat. Human body can regulate its temperature through several strategies such as sweating. The body sweats to lower down the body temperature however when a person spends too much time in the heat without taking in enough fluids, the body may no longer be able to effectively control the temperature.
Since so mechanism is effectively working to cool the body down, the body temperature may rise high enough to make the person sick. The symptoms of above normal body temperature includes headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps and fatigue. However if quick steps aren't taken to lower down the body temperature and recover from dehydration, it may even result in a heat stroke.
A heat stroke is an emergency condition where the body's core temperature is markedly elevated to more than 40 degrees Celsius. The elderly and young children are at higher risk for heat stroke. While prolonged exposure to high temperatures or doing strenuous activity in hot weather is the main cause of hyperthermia or heat stroke, factors such as dehydration, alcohol, side effects of certain medications, and wearing excess and tight clothing can also contribute to causing heat stroke.
Heat stroke occurs when the body's core temperature increase substantially, activating inflammatory cytokines which may result in multiple organ dysfunctioning. Organ dysfunction may occur in the skeletal muscle, liver, kidneys, lungs and heart. It involves a systemic inflammatory response causing multiple organ dysfunction and often death.
Since heat stroke requires immediate and aggressive cooling, it prognosis of hyperthermia or heat stroke depends a lot on the promptness and aggressiveness of cooling provided. The morbidity and mortality rate after hyperthermia or heat stroke are significantly high and vary depending on the age, underlying disorders and the maximum temperature. However, the most important factor is the duration of hyperthermia.
While prompt and effective treatment can easily save a person after heat stroke, lack of it can lead a mortality rate as high as 80%. Even the 20% survivors have some residual brain damage. The treatment may even last for weeks while the temperature is still higher than normal. Even after proper treatment some people may still have renal insufficiency.
Having suffered from heat stroke in the past also increases the risk of heat stroke in the future. Prompt cooling is very crucial for treatment heat stroke, delaying which can have serious consequences, including kidney or liver damage, congestive heart failure or heart arrhythmias, coma or death.
Prompt and aggressive body cooling is the most effective treatment of heat stroke. It can either be done through cold water immersion or evaporation, but the main goal is to reach a core temperature of below 39 C as fast as possible, usually within the first 60 minutes. Supportive measures for breathing, hypotension, and seizures may also be required while cooling the body temperature.
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