Heat-related illnesses: A spectrum of severity |
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Heat-related illnesses: A spectrum of severity

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Heat-related illnesses are a group of ailments resulting from an inconsistency between the metabolic production of heat and physical measures to ensure heat loss. These are present with a group of symptoms and signs resulting to failure of thermoregulation and are characterized by hyperthermia, well-defined as the advancement of core body temperature above the usual range of 36°C–37.5°C. It is significant to distinguish this advancement of core body temperature from fever, which is influenced by cytokine activation throughout inflammation and is regulated at the level of the hypothalamus. They have a range of sternness, ranging from heat cramps to heatstroke (HS).

Heat cramps are the safest of the heat-related illnesses, establishing as brief cramps succeeding periods of exertion. Notwithstanding core body temperatures between 37°C and 39°C, mental function is unchanged in such patients. The excruciating, involuntary muscle spasms that describe heat cramps are caused by fluid and electrolyte loss succeeding extreme exertion in hot environments.

Additionally along the spectrum of heat-related illnesses lies heat exhaustion, where generalized weakness, fatigue, nausea, headache, vertigo, and syncope predominate. Mental position is not troubled in spite of a core body temperature of 37°C–40°C.

Heat cramps and heat exhaustion react well to conformist methods, e.g. rest in a cool area and refilling fluids and nutritional requirements of the body.

Heat-related illness is a broadly prevalent ailment with a wide spectrum of severity an ever-rising load. Its pathophysiology is multifaceted and includes a systemic inflammatory response owing to a discrepancy between heat production and overindulgence. Though quick cooling of patients has been shown to be effective, the indication is unsatisfactory concerning the capability of various measures, as well as the procedures to treat organ dysfunction in HS. Conducting high-quality potential studies comparing different modalities of treatment is the need of the hour. Eventually, it would give the impression that prevention is far better than cure.

Source: Curr Med Issues 2020;18:87-93

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