The body is very effective in maintaining the correct temperature in extreme conditions of heat and cold. We can go skiing in freezing cold conditions or lay on a hot sunny beach.
We control our temperature by various means. We remove or add clothing and we move into the shade or swim to cool down or go inside and sit by a heater to warm. These are conscious actions and choices we make. Our bodies also have an automatic thermostat, which maintains our temperature by adjusting circulation and heartbeat, as well controlling our environment. Our bodies shiver to warm us up and perspire to help us cool down.
Problems can occur when this thermostat does not function correctly due to extremes in temperature.
When the body heats up we can get HEAT EXHAUSTION. With this, the patient becomes very hot and sweaty and has increased respiration and distress. Heat exhaustion can be controlled by moving the patient into a cooler environment and giving him sips of water and keeping him calm.
HEAT STROKE is a much more serious condition. This is where the body’s thermostat fails due to extreme temperature. With heat stroke, do not give the patient anything to drink. With heat stroke patients, the most obvious sign is that they no longer sweat and their skin is dry. This is because the body reduces blood supply to the non-vital organs(i.e. the skin) and this prevents perspiration.
Treatment includes cooling the person using cold wet towels or a hose until the emergency services arrive; keep monitoring the patient at all times for his ABCDs.
One important factor with any heat-related problem is dehydration. So whenever you are at extreme temperatures, ensure that you drink plenty of water to make sure that your body is hydrated enough to control its own temperature effectively.