Dangerous Body Temperature Due To Hyperthermia

By Ashley | December 16, 2009

The human body temperature is a facet of our being warm-blooded creatures and is regulated in an area of the brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus regularly increases the body temperature in response to the release of pyrogens during a fever. This is a natural body response when faced with a bacterial or viral invader. However, this has to be controlled in some viral infections like anthrax, where the virus directly controls the release of pyrogens and this causes uncontrolled fever and death. This is, however, still under the realm of body control. There are other situations where the body has absolutely no control over increasing body temperature and this is a condition called hyperthermia. For the ease of understanding, any temperature above 40 degrees centigrade or 104 Fahrenheit is considered a medical emergency that requires immediate cooling with ice if possible. This can happen in some cases of the flu and has to be brought down with the use of a cooling shower – no matter how uncomfortable.

Hyperthermia is the stage that occurs when the normal mechanisms of temperature control are ineffective. Normally, the body controls spurts in temperature from the external environment by sweating. However, this can be ineffective in dealing with high temperatures, especially if the surrounding temperatures are above a certain limit like 38 degrees centigrade and with a substantial amount of humidity. It is worth noting that if the surrounding temperature is above the natural body temperature of 37 degrees centigrade, one should take adequate precautions to stay out of the blazing sun.

The first sign of hyperthermia when accompanied by dehydration is the drying out of the skin. This occurs because the body has decided to cut its losses and maintain the remaining water for the functioning of the vital organs. Blood supply to the extremities reduces and there is a massive swelling that occurs in the body because the capillaries are attempting to dissipate as much heat through conduction, as far as possible. In an even more advanced state, the lack of water in the blood makes the heart beat faster and respiration more difficult due to falling blood volume and density. One will then feel the neurological effects of hyperthermia that include a state that is very close to intoxication and dementia. If the temperature is still not brought down, children can experience seizures, and adults could start fainting and experiencing dizzy spells before lapsing into a coma.