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Hyperthermia - Causes, Symptoms, Risks and Prevent

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Hyperthermia - Causes, Symptoms, Risks and Prevent

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Hyperthermia is a condition in which the body temperature increases abnormally. Read the article below to learn more about hyperthermia.

Published At March 9, 2022
Reviewed AtApril 25, 2024

What Is Hyperthermia?

A condition in which the body cannot regulate its temperature, resulting in elevated body temperature, is called hyperthermia or overheating. Here, the body produces more heat than what gets dissipated. If the temperature rises extremely, it can result in fatal complications and require immediate medical attention. Around 5 lakh deaths are caused every year due to this condition. The major causes of hyperthermia are heatstroke and severe adverse reactions to drugs that affect the central nervous system.

Hyperthermia and fever are different. Hyperthermia is the opposite of hypothermia, where the body’s temperature falls. 98.6 °F or 37 °C is the average body temperature. Hyperthermia is when the body temperature is above 100.4 °F or 38 °C, and when the body temperature is lower than 95 °F or 35 °C, it is called hypothermia. Temperatures above 104 °F or 40 °C are considered severe hyperthermia.

What Is Meant by Malignant Hyperthermia?

Malignant hyperthermia is a genetic condition that increases the susceptibility of hyperthermia if the person receives a specific combination of sedatives and anesthesia for some medical procedure. If the person has this condition, the body temperature can increase tremendously during and post-surgery. People with this condition will have reactions to some medications but this will become usual after several uses.

What Are the Stages and Symptoms of Hyperthermia?

The symptoms of hyperthermia can occur in the following stages. You might or might not develop all of the listed stages or symptoms:

1) Heat Stress - The body’s temperature rises, but the person does not sweat, and cooling off of the body does not take place. This can lead to heat exhaustion and heatstroke. The symptoms include:

  • Feeling uncomfortably hot.

  • Dizziness.

  • Headache.

  • Tiredness.

  • Nausea.

  • Thirst.

2) Heat Fatigue - A person who is working under extremely hot weather, develops physical discomfort and psychological stress. If you are not used to working in hot conditions, you might be susceptible to heat fatigue. The symptoms are:

  • Feeling hot.

  • Thirsty.

  • Tired.

  • Difficulty concentrating.

  • Loss of coordination.

3) Heat Syncope - A person faints, his or her blood pressure falls, and the blood circulation to the brain is cut off temporarily due to heat. Heat syncope commonly occurs when you exert yourself in a hot climate. People who take beta-blockers for hypertension are more prone to heat syncope. You might experience:

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness.

  • Fainting.

4) Heat Cramps - Involuntary muscle spasms during intense exercise in a hot environment. They usually result from an electrolyte imbalance. The muscles of the abdomen, arm, and leg are most commonly affected.

5) Heat Edema- Swelling in the hands, legs, or ankles because of sitting or standing in the heat for a long time. Fluid gets filled in the extremities. Edema is because of the resorption of sodium through the kidneys into the blood.

6) Heat Rash - Some people get red bumps on the skin if they spend a lot of time in the sun. These rashes are mainly seen on the skin underneath clothing that becomes wet due to sweat.

7) Heat Exhaustion - In this stage, the body cannot cool itself any longer, and this is the most serious stage. The symptoms experienced are:

  • Sweating profusely.

  • Dizziness.

  • Thirst.

  • Weakness.

  • Concentration problems.

  • Cool and clammy skin.

  • Rapid pulse.

When to Consult a Doctor for Hyperthermia?

As an increase in body temperature can be fatal, it is important to get immediate medical help. In case of the following signs and symptoms, consult a doctor immediately:

  1. Fainting.

  2. Irritability.

  3. Coordination problems.

  4. Flushed skin.

  5. Rapid pulse.

  6. Increase in body temperature.

Who Is at Risk for Hyperthermia?

Working in extremely hot climates increases the risk of hyperthermia. The following people are at risk:

  • Construction workers.

  • Farmers.

  • Athletes.

  • Firefighters.

  • Children who play outdoors.

  • Older adults.

Some health conditions can also increase the risk of hyperthermia. They are:

  • Dehydration.

  • Impaired circulation.

  • Inefficient sweat glands.

  • Heart or kidney diseases.

  • Being overweight or underweight.

  • Consuming alcoholic beverages.

  • Hypertension.

  • Medications, such as diuretics, tranquilizers, sedatives, and blood pressure drugs, can reduce sweating.

What Causes Hyperthermia?

The following are the causes of hyperthermia:

  1. Increased heatwaves or humidity.

  2. Excess heat production is due to overexertion, malignant hyperthermia, and other conditions.

  3. Poor heat dissipation is due to reduced sweating or a humid environment.

Typically, proper temperature is maintained by sweating and peripheral vasodilation (constriction of blood vessels in the hands and feet). When the climate is hot, these cooling mechanisms are insufficient, leading to heat-related illnesses.

Are Fever and Hyperthermia the Same?

The hypothalamus, a part of the brain, regulates the body’s temperature. It maintains the body temperature at around 98.6 °F (37 °C). In the case of infection, the hypothalamus makes the body hot (fever) to make the environment hostile for the pathogens. Once the pathogen is eliminated, the body temperature returns to normal.

In hyperthermia, the body tries to adjust to the hot environment. If it finds it hard to keep cool despite the hot climate, the body’s temperature climbs in response. A fever can be treated with Paracetamol or other medicines, but it is ineffective for hyperthermia.

How Is Hyperthermia Managed?

If you develop signs of hyperthermia, make sure you:

  • Move to a cooler location with air conditioning.

  • Drink sports drinks containing electrolytes or water.

  • Take a cool shower.

  • Ice bags can be kept under your arms or in the groin area.

The treatments for different stages of hyperthermia are:

For heat stress, fatigue, and cramps, - Move to a colder area and rest. Drink water or other fluids containing electrolytes to prevent dehydration. Electrolyte liquid contains calcium, sodium, and potassium, regulating heart rate and muscle health. When you start feeling dizzy, put your legs up. Move to a more relaxed location.

Edema or swelling subsides over time. Make sure you are well hydrated and put your feet up. Heat rashes disappear on their own when you cool down. The rash can get infected, so avoid scratching it. If it is infected, you might have to apply a topical antibiotic cream. Heatstroke is a medical emergency that needs hospitalization and immediate medical attention.

How to Prevent Hyperthermia?

You can prevent hyperthermia by:

  1. Do not let your children play outdoors in extremely hot conditions.

  2. Take breaks in a cool place frequently.

  3. If not necessary, stay indoors.

  4. Keep drinking water and staying hydrated.

  5. Wear loose-fitting cotton clothes outdoors.


Hyperthermia is a condition in which blood temperature increases. It is also known as heat illness, and there are various forms of hyperthermia. Heatstroke is the usual form and can be life-threatening. This condition is caused by overexertion in hot conditions, and it can usually be prevented.

Frequently Asked Questions


At What Temperature Does Hyperthermia Occur?

A body temperature rising above 104 degrees Fahrenheit is a sign of a potentially fatal ailment. This is because it affects the brain and other organs. For example, heatstroke is particularly deadly if the body temperature rises above 106 degrees Fahrenheit.


How Is Hyperthermia Treated?

Total body cooling is the only proven cure for heat-related illnesses. The two types of cooling used in treating heat-related disorders are conduction and evaporation. According to studies, immersion in freezing water is the treatment that works the quickest.


To Whom Does Hyperthermia Pose a Risk?

Infants and young children up to the age of four, adults over the age of 65, those who are overweight, and those who are ill or using specific drugs are most at risk for heat-related disease.


Which Is Worse, Hyperthermia or Fever?

Fever and hyperthermia are not the same thing. When you have hyperthermia, the hypothalamus-controlled "set-point" for body temperature is exceeded (a part of the brain that controls many body functions). The hypothalamus raises the set-point temperature of the body when the patient has a fever. The intentional rise in body temperature is an effort to fight off an infection or illness.


How Can You Prevent Hyperthermia?

The following preventive measures should be followed;
- Wear a warm hat; the head accounts for 30 % of total body heat loss.
- Put on gloves and a scarf.
- The ideal room temperature for infants is between 61 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Avoid engaging in vigorous exercise while it's hot and humid.
- Sports drinks, lightly salted water, or broth should be consumed.
- During heat waves, remain in cool, well-ventilated spaces.


What Three Forms of Hyperthermia Are There?

An abnormally high body temperature is known as hyperthermia. There are various types of hyperthermia, sometimes known as heat diseases. Heat exhaustion is more severe than minor heat cramps. The most dangerous kind of hyperthermia, heatstroke, can be fatal.


What Is the Hypothermia First Aid Procedure?

If it's safe, wet the person with cold or cool water using a hose, a shower, or water source. Use ice packs (groin, armpits, facial cheeks, palms, and soles). Use a wet cloth or a water spray to repeatedly moist the skin with water. Fan continuously.


Which Drug Is Prescribed for Body Heat?

When endogenous or exogenous pyrogens have increased the body's thermoregulatory set point, antipyretics bring it down.


Which Drug Is Responsible for Causing Hyperthermia?

Anticholinergic medications increase body temperature by activating peripheral muscles, decreasing the body's capacity to sweat, and, if they reach the central nervous system (CNS), they exert a central action.


What Occurs When a Person Has Hyperthermia?

A person experiences a heat stroke when their body temperature rises significantly (typically above 104 degrees Fahrenheit), and they exhibit symptoms like mental status changes (like confusion), a rapid, strong pulse, no sweating, flushed dry skin, dizziness, staggering, or even a coma.


Which Organ Regulates the Body’s Temperature?

The hypothalamus, a brain region, controls our body's core temperature. The hypothalamus measures our body's temperature and compares it to the average temperature, around 37 degrees Celsius.


What Follows Hyperthermia?

Heat exhaustion or heatstroke can result from heat stress. Heatstroke is the most severe type of hyperthermia. A body temperature rising above 104 degrees Fahrenheit is a sign of a potentially fatal ailment. It adversely affects the brain and other organs.


Can You Treat Hypothermia at Home?

Yes, mild hypothermia can be treated at home. Only apply a warm compress to the groin, chest wall, or neck. Avoid massaging the arms or legs with a warm compress. The core body temperature decreases due to cold blood being forced back toward the heart, lungs, and brain by applying heat to the arms and legs.


How Much Time Does Hypothermia Last?

The time it takes for someone to die from hypothermia varies on dependsl variables, including the person's age and overall health, as well as whether they were exposed to the cold in the water or the air. Hypothermia can develop quickly—within minutes to hours—or gradually—over days to weeks, depending on the circumstances.


Is Hypothermia Treatable?

Most people who have mild hypothermia recover without any long-term effects. But individuals with moderate to severe hypothermia may experience severe consequences or pass away. Children have a higher chance of recovering from severe hypothermia than adults. In older adults, hypothermia has a mortality risk of roughly 50%.
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Dr. Chandramani Harichandra Didgaonkar
Dr. Chandramani Harichandra Didgaonkar

General Practitioner


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