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Extreme Heat (Hyperthermia)

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  • Extreme Heat (Hyperthermia)

    Pathophysiology : Despite wide variations in ambient temperatures, humans and other mammals can maintain a constant body temperature by balancing heat gain with heat loss. When heat gain overwhelms the body's mechanisms of heat loss, the body temperature rises, potentially leading to heatstroke. Excessive heat denatures proteins, destabilizes phospholipids and lipoproteins, and liquefies membrane lipids, leading to cardiovascular collapse, multiorgan failure, and, ultimately, death. The exact temperature at which cardiovascular collapse occurs varies among individuals because coexisting disease, drugs, and other factors may contribute to or delay organ dysfunction. Full recovery has been observed in patients with temperatures as high as 46°C, and death has occurred in patients with much lower temperatures. Temperatures exceeding 106°F or 41.1°C generally are catastrophic and require immediate aggressive therapy. Heat may be acquired by a number of different mechanisms. At rest, basal metabolic processes produce approximately 100 kcal of heat per hour or 1 kcal/kg/h. These reactions can raise the body temperature by 1.1°C/h if the heat-dissipating mechanisms are nonfunctional. Strenuous physical activity can increase heat production more than 10-fold, to levels exceeding 1000 kcal/h. Similarly, fever, shivering, tremors, convulsions, thyrotoxicosis, sepsis, sympathomimetic drugs, and many other conditions can increase heat production, thereby increasing body temperature. Treatment : The underlying cause must be removed. Mild hyperthemia caused by exertion on a hot day may be adequately treated through self-care measures, such as increased water consumption and resting in a cool place. Hyperthermia that results from drug exposure requires prompt cessation of that drug, and occasionally the use of other drugs as counter measures. Antipyretics (e.g., acetaminophen, aspirin, other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) have no role in the treatment of heatstroke because antipyretics interrupt the change in the hypothalamic set point caused by pyrogens; they are not expected to work on a healthy hypothalamus that has been overloaded, as in the case of heatstroke. In this situation, antipyretics actually may be harmful in patients who develop hepatic, hematologic, and renal complications because they may aggravate bleeding tendencies Introduction: Hyperthermia is elevated body temperature due to failed thermoregulation that occurs when a body produces or absorbs more heat than it dissipates. Extreme temperature elevation then becomes a medical emergency requiring immediate treatment to prevent death.

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