Hyperthermia is the opposite of hypothermia. In its advanced stages it is called either heat stroke or sunstroke. Hyperthermia is an acute condition which occurs when the body produces or absorbs more heat than it can get rid of. Typically, the condition is caused by extended exposure to high temperatures. With time, the heat-regulating mechanisms of the body become overwhelmed and unable to manage the heat effectively. This causes the body’s temperature to climb uncontrollably. When a person is suffering from heat stroke, it is a medical emergency. The person requires immediate treatment.
It is possible to create hyperthermia artificially through the use of drugs or other medical devices. Sometimes, it is necessary to raise the body’s temperature to treat cancer or other conditions. With some types of general anesthesia, malignant hyperthermia is a rare complication.
Hypothermia is the opposite of heat stroke. It is caused when an organism’s temperature drops below the level required for normal metabolism. Hypothermia is usually caused by extended or prolonged exposure to low temperatures. It too is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment.
There is a difference between a fever and sunstroke. A fever is the result of the body re-setting its core temperature to a higher temperature. This is done through an action of the pre-optic region of the anterior hypothalamus. The body commonly does this in response to a bacterial or viral infection. Raising the body’s temperature allows the immune system to work better and deteriorates the condition of the invaders. Hyperthermia, on the other hand, occurs when the body temperature is raised without the consent of the body.
The body is equipped with a number of methods of temperature regulation. One of the most important methods is perspiration. Perspiration draws heat from inside to the outside of the body. This allows it to be carried off by radiation or convection. Evaporation of sweat furthers cooling as sweating is an endothermic process. At a certain point, the body becomes dehydrated to a degree that perspiration is no longer possible. Once the body is unable to sweat, the body’s core temperature will begin to rise swiftly.
When a person is suffering from heat stroke, he or she may become confused or hostile. The person may have a headache and can even seem intoxicated. The person’s blood pressure will commonly drop significantly due to dehydration. When blood pressure falls, fainting or dizziness can occur, particularly if the victim stands suddenly. Other symptoms include rapid breathing and an accelerated heart rate. This is because the drop in blood pressure requires the heart to pump more rapidly in its attempts to supply oxygen to the body.
The skin of a person suffering from heat stroke will turn red. This is the blood vessels dilating in an attempt to increase heat dissipation. Once blood pressure drops, however, the blood vessels will contract which will result in a pale or bluish skin color.