By: Gary DeWitt

Hyperthermia is a fast onset condition that happens when the body can't rid itself of heat fast enough. It happens when the atmosphere outside the body is not favorable to the body shedding heat fast enough. This is known as the thermal gradient.

If the body gets hot enough, its internal mechanism to control temperature malfunctions. The internal thermostat of your body gets set to the uppermost setting. Your body will continue to heat up to the point that you may perhaps die.

Body temperatures over 40 degrees celcius (104 degrees fahrenheit) are life-threatening. This compares to usual human body temperature of 36-37 degrees celcius (97-98 degrees fahrenheit). The typical skin temperature away from the center is about (90 degrees fahrenheit) At 41 degrees celcius (106 degrees fahrenheit), brain death begins, and at 45 celcius (113 degrees fahrenheit) death is nearly certain. Internal temperatures above 50 degrees celcius (122 degrees fahrenheit) will cause rigidity in the muscles and certain, immediate death.

Hyperthermia has 3 distinctive phases:

Stage 1 is known as heat cramps. This stage is characterized by muscle spasms or cramps. They generally start in the large muscles. Heat cramps are caused by imbalance in the electrolytes of the body.

Stage 2 is known as heat exhaustion. This stage is characterized by a mild state of shock. They body has increased the size of the blood vessels in an attempt to relieve itself of excess heat. The body is also perspiring profusely at this stage, which can cause a state of dehydration. The skin color will be will be whitish. The temperature will be ordinary to elevated. Note that at this stage people still perspire. The heat compensation mechanisms of the body are running at 100% at this point. A person may also be dizzy or faint.

Stage 3 is known as heat stroke. DANGER. This stage has a death rate of 20-80%! The heat compensation mechanisms of the body have become overwhelemed and are shutting down. The body becomes overheated. The body loses its power to control temperature. If this is not controlled quickly, brain damage may result.

A person does not have to be in a really hot environment for hyperthermia to occur. Certain prescription medicines interfere with the capacity of the body to regulate temperature. Other drugs interfere with the ability of the body to perspire. The youthful and aged are at more risk. Some conditions will also alter the ability of the body to shed heat.

Some things the lay person can do to help somebody with heat exhaustion are:
- Call for emergency medical help
- Move the person (if they are able to walk) to a cooler environment such as shade
- Fan the person
- Avoid the use of icy water. Always tepid water.
- Apply cool moist towels to the brow

Hyperthermia can be prevented. Watch the heat and moisture. Dress properly for the environment. Listen to your body. Sip plenty of fluids.

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This article was written by the owner of Way of the Warrior website. He has been involved in self reliance and martial arts training for over 20 years. www.warriorswayar.net

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