‘Hyper’ means excessive and ‘thermia’ means heat. Excessive heat in the body due to failure in the mechanism of thermoregulation is known as hyperthermia. In this condition the body produces more heat or absorbs more heat than it can lose to the environment.
The body is not capable of handling this excessive rise of the temperature. Hence, this excessive temperature has adverse effects on the physiological processes of the body. It results into a medical emergency which requires prompt action otherwise it can prove to be fatal.
Hyperthermia is different from Fever. In fever the set point of the body changes, but in hyperthermia the set point remains unchanged. That means the body is not able to maintain a temperature in the manageable range.
Hyperthermia is defined medically as body temperature more than 100 degree Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius which occurs without the change in the set point. Body temperature of more than 40 degrees Celsius or 104 degree Fahrenheit can even result in death.
Causes of hyperthermia:
Mostly body loses heat by the process of sweating. As the process of thermoregulation is rendered ineffective, the sweating stops and the body is not able to dissipate the excessive heat and results in heat stroke.
Many of the drugs have the side effect that results in hyperthermia. The chances of hyperthermia are more when multiple drugs having this side effect are used together in higher dosage.
Hormonal conditions like thyrotoxicosis and tumour of adrenal gland can also cause hyperthermia.
Some individuals are susceptible to some anaesthetic agents due to their genetic makeup. Malignant hyperthermia is one such condition. In this condition, these drugs induce an uncontrolled metabolism in the muscles, which over exerts the body resulting in increased temperature.
Signs of hyperthermia:
In early stage the following symptoms are seen:
- Excessive sweating
- Rapid breathing
In later stage the following symptoms are seen:
- Absence of sweat
- Hot and dry skin
- Nausea and vomiting
- Head ache
- Fainting and dizziness
- Low blood pressure
If not controlled in time it may further lead to:
- Organ failure
The diagnosis is based on an unexpected high temperature in absence of any other physical illness. The patients also might have a positive drug intake history with hyperthermia as a known side effect.
Patient requires immediate hospitalization and following treatment modalities:
1.Mechanical cooling methods:
- Removing clothing
- Resting in a cool place
- Sponging the head, neck and body in cool water
- Keeping the person under a fan
- Drinking a lot of water
- Sitting in a bath tub of cool water
- Intravenous hydration
- Gastric lavage with ice cold water
- Enough intake of water
- Wearing lighter clothes in summer
- Frequent breaks if the work has physical exertion and hot environments.
- Monitoring of body temperature
Hyperthermia is a serious condition which can occur to anybody. It’s one of the most fatal medical emergencies and treated as soon as possible.