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Heat Disorders

Overview :

Heat disorders are harmful to people of all ages, but their severity is likely to increase as people age. Heat cramps in a 16-year-old may be heat exhaustion in a 45-year-old and heat stroke in a 65-year-old. The body's temperature regulating mechanisms rely on the thermal regulating centers in the brain. Through these complex centers, the body tries to adapt to high temperatures by adjusting the amount of salt in the perspiration. Salt helps the cells in body tissues retain water. In hot weather, a healthy body will lose enough water to cool the body while creating the lowest level of chemical imbalance. Regardless of extreme weather conditions, the healthy human body keeps a steady temperature of approximately 98.6°F (37°C). In hot weather, or during vigorous activity, the body perspires. As perspiration evaporates from the skin, the body is cooled. If the body loses too much salt and fluids, the symptoms of dehydration can occur.

Heat cramps

Heat cramps are the least severe of the heat-related illnesses. This heat disorder is often the first signal that the body is having difficulty with increased temperature. Individuals exposed to excessive heat should think of heat cramps as a warning sign to a potential heat-related emergency.

Heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is a more serious and complex condition than heat cramps. Heat exhaustion can result from prolonged exposure to hot temperatures, restricted fluid intake, or failure of temperature regulation mechanisms of the body. It often affects athletes, firefighters, construction workers, factory workers, and anyone who wears heavy clothing in hot humid weather.

Heat stroke

Heat exhaustion can develop rapidly into heat stroke. Heat stroke can be life threatening and because the percentage of victims dying from heat stroke is very high, immediate medical attention is critical when problems first begin. Heat stroke, like heat exhaustion, is also a result of prolonged exposure to hot temperatures, restricted fluid intake, or failure of temperature regulation mechanisms of the body. However, the severity of impact on the body is much greater with heat stroke.

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