Hyperthermia occurs when a person’s body temperature rises and remains above the normal; 98.6°F Most frequently, this occurs during the heat of summer and among the elderly. However, it may also be triggered by other medical conditions or certain medications.
Hyperthermia is sometimes induced as a palliative measure in the treatment of certain cancerous conditions.
Symptoms of hyperthermia include headache, nausea, fatigue, muscle cramps, thirst and profuse sweating, notwithstanding that the skin may feel cold and clammy. Without appropriate and prompt treatment to cool the body, hyperthermia may progress to more complicated and more dangerous conditions.
Hyperthermia is caused by heat. Hot summer weather, being out in the sun for too long a period of time, excessive exercise in the heat, over extended stays in a hot tub or sauna, or being in an overcrowded or overheated room without adequate ventilation can cause hyperthermia. Certain medications (particularly diuretics), alcoholic beverages, certain medical conditions and being overdressed in hot weather also causes hyperthermia. The inability to perspire sufficiently, high blood pressure or poor blood circulation may play an important role in susceptibility to hyperthermia.
Hyperthermia affects males and females in equal numbers. It is common in people over 50 years of age, those confined to nursing homes, and people with other medical problems. Younger, healthy persons are rarely affected. Infants can also be affected by the heat since they cannot communicate their needs to others.
Treatment of hyperthermia consists of cooling the body. Cool showers, use of fans or air conditioners, drinking plenty of fluids (excluding those that contain caffeine or alcohol) helps maintain the correct body temperature. Cool, slightly salty fluids may help restore body salts lost during sweating. People prone to hyperthermia should avoid being in the sun, wearing heavy clothing in hot, humid weather and staying out of overcrowded and under-ventilated environments.
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