Hyperthermia: Too Hot for Your Health

Irene is retired, she loves to work in her garden. Because she has always spent hours outside, she thinks the heat and humidity of Midwestern summers don't bother her. Then last year an unusual heat wave hit her area. Every day the temperature was over 100° F, and the humidity was at least 90%. Five days into the heat wave, her daughter Kim came over because Irene sounded confused on the phone. Kim found her mom passed out on the kitchen floor. The ambulance came quickly when called, but Irene almost died. She had heat stroke, the most serious form of hyperthermia.

Almost every summer there is a deadly heat wave in some part of the country. Too much heat is not safe for anyone. It is even riskier if you are older or if you have health problems. It is important to get relief from the heat quickly. If not, you might begin to feel confused or faint. Your heart could become stressed, and maybe stop beating.

Your body is always working to keep a balance between how much heat it makes and how much it loses. Your brain is the thermostat. It sends and receives signals to and from parts of your body that affect temperature, such as the spinal cord, muscles, blood vessels, skin, and glands that make substances known as hormones. Too much heat causes sweating. When the sweat dries from your skin, the surface of your body cools and your temperature goes down.