Not only your brain but also your skin, hormones, sweat glands and blood vessels help regulate the body temperature. Various biological clocks drive your circadian rhythms and regulate your sleep-wake cycles, hormone release, temperature and several other important bodily functions. The master clock in the brain controls all body clocks and helps maintain your health. Abnormal temperature indicates dysfunction of the bodily system/s.
Temperature of Your Body
In spite of large fluctuations in external temperatures, human body is capable of maintaining its normal temperature. Variations of 1 or 2 degrees can be experienced in various situations. The normal body temperature range for oral measurement is 98.2±1.3 °F or 36.8±0.7 °C. High body temperature is known as 'hyperthermia' or 'fever' while very low temperature is referred to as 'hypothermia'. Both conditions are equally dangerous.
Heat is produced during chemical reactions that take place as a part of body metabolism (while producing energy from food) and during physical activities. With the help of radiation (flow of heat from warmer to cooler areas) and sweating, the body tries to lose heat in order to keep itself cool. Evaporation of sweat helps keep the skin cool. Radiation is helpful when the body is warmer than the surrounding environment. High humidity can reduce the effectiveness of sweating because the rate of evaporation of sweat slows down, as the humidity levels increase. This is the reason why the body finds it difficult to lose heat in hot and humid weather. Excessive heat production, ineffective heat loss, or both can lead to heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heatstroke (a serious condition).
Very high or very low temperature can result in serious injury to organs or even death. Those who have body temperature regulation problems may feel freezing cold or overly hot. An under active thyroid, peripheral nerve involvement as in diabetes, vitamin D deficiency, autoimmune diseases (for example, Lupus or Sjorgern's Syndrome) can cause temperature fluctuations. A healthy body is capable of regulating its temperature by balancing heat production and heat loss.
Causes of Excessive Heat Production
- Infections resulting in fever
- Overdose of certain medicines like aspirin
- Excessive consumption of certain stimulant drugs like cocaine, amphetamines, methylene dioxy methamphetamine, etc.
- Overactive thyroid which increases the rate of metabolism
- Strenuous physical activity or intensive exercise (especially among obese people)
- Certain conditions like seizures, agitation or alcohol/drug withdrawal, etc.
Causes of Ineffective Heat Loss
- Very tight clothing that does not allow sweat to evaporate from the skin
- Use of certain medicines like antipsychotic drugs or drugs that are known for anticholinergic effects, can reduce sweating.
- In obese people, a thick layer of fat works as an insulator and prevents heat loss.
- Over exposure to cold weather, frostbite
- Addison's Disease (scarcity of adrenal gland hormones)
- Alcohol abuse (body's ability to control heat loss gets seriously affected)
- Being on cold intravenous fluids
- Being under the effects of anesthesia
- Diabetes (fluctuating / high/ low blood sugar levels)
- Wilson's temperature syndrome
- Drug abuse
- Excessive consumption of certain medications like sedatives or diuretics
- Low iodine, Hypothyroidism (under-active thyroid leading to low thyroid hormone levels)
- Kidney failure
- Liver failure
- Sepsis (excess bacteria in bloodstream due to widespread infection)
- Certain other chronic conditions like anemia, hepatitis C, etc.
- Undergoing a surgery.
Common Symptoms of Temperature Disorders
- Lack of coordination
- Difficulty making decisions
- Irregular or absent menstrual periods
- Irregular heartbeats
- Heart palpitations
- Slurred speech
- Reduced appetite
- Undesired weight loss / gain
- Excessive weakness
- Abnormal blood pressure levels
- Increased irritability
People at Risk
- Very young or very old people
- Those who take diuretics
- Those who suffer from electrolyte imbalance
- Those who have been diagnosed with heart, lungs, kidneys, or liver diseases
Precautions to be Taken
- Those who susceptible to temperature disorders should avoid strenuous exertion in very hot environment.
- They should wear proper clothes according to the weather. For example, loose-fitting cotton clothes in hot humid weather and warm woolen jackets, gloves, socks in cold weather.
- They should drink plenty of water and lightly salted foods and beverages to replenish the salt and water lost through sweating.
- Avoiding alcohol and smoking can help avoid worsening of the situation.
- They should check whether the rooms are properly ventilated.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.