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Health > First Aid > Heat Disorders


Basking in the sunshine can be relaxing and pleasant, but too much heat can cause damage to the body processes and body tissues-so prompt treatment is essential.

Although we absorb heat from the sun, we obtain, nearly all our body warmth from the food we eat: we `burn` glucose in order to produce carbon dioxide and water which releases energy in the form of heat. This process is carried out in the extremely complex pathways within the cells, and in order for it to continue functioning ,body temperatures must remain stable at between 36.20c (97 .20f)to 37.6 0c( 99.60f).


In the heat, the body reacts to maintain a constant temperature and project the brain, which cannot withstand higher temperatures. Ordinarily the excess heat is lost by sweating and by the skin in blood vessels dilating as the skin blood flow increases.

The transition from heat control by normal sweating and flushing to temperatures where damage occurs is slow. Initially, there is increased sweating, a feeling of exhaustion and dryness of the mouth as body fluid and salt are lost. The pulse rate rises and the person becomes flushed. If the body rises further then sweating ceases and there is collapse and convulsions, ultimately followed by death if treatment is not given.


Heat exhaustion often affects older people who wear much clothing on hot summer days. Initially there is a headache, dizziness and weakness which is a result of the overheated skin attracting blood from the heart. Sweating is mild, leaving the body damp and clammy. A patient who is suffering from heat exhaustion can be put in a cool place, their clothing loosened and a cool drink offered. In severe cases, medical aid should be sought as soon as possible. Heat cramps usually occur when strenuous physical exertion takes place in a hot environmental ,and as such it is an occupational hazard of miners, fireman and stokers. There is a sudden onset of extremely painful cramps and spasms of the leg, arm and abdominal muscles. Dilute salt water should be given and firm hand pressure should be applied to cramped muscles. The attack may last for several hours.

Heatstroke or sunstroke is very serious .It can arise from sunbathing excessively, or hard exercise in very hot weather. After the initial symptoms of heat exhaustion-sweating ceases, and the skin becomes hot, flushed and dry. They patient temperature may soar to 41.0 c (1060f). The patient should be put in a tub of ice water or wrapped in blankets soaked in cold water. When the temperature should be discontinued. Patients with heatstroke should be admitted to hospitals. Heat exhaustion and heatstroke may result when a person who is unused to heat moves to a hot climate. Although the body adapts to the new climatic conditions that it encounters, by producing more sweat, immediate cooling measures such as taking adequate liquids and salts as well as wearing light clothing and a sunhat outdoors are essential.

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