While hypothermia is something most of us are warned about as children before we go play in the snow, hyperthermia - its lesser-known opposite that can result from a casual hike through the desert - can be just as dangerous. When the body becomes too hot due to failed thermoregulation (which happens when the body produces or absorbs more heat than it can dissipate) hyperthermia occurs. Heat exhaustion, sun stroke and heat cramps are all forms of hyperthermia.
Much like hypothermia, hyperthermia can become incredibly dangerous if an individual does not seek immediate medical treatment - and the result can be as severe as permanent disability or even loss of life.
So, next time you plan to take to the Mojave, remember this list of symptoms to avoid learning what it's like to perish from the heat when lost in the desert.
The initial signs of hyperthermia are usually difficult to distinguish from those of someone who has just finished a heavy workout. Furthermore, symptoms can vary widely based on which form of the heat-related illness a person has. If an individual suddeenly feels too hot or too cold, or if the pulse slows or begins to race, he or she could be in the early stages of hyperhermia.
Some symptoms can be tricky to identify, especially when it comes to sweat. If a person is still sweating when the process starts, they may find themselves sweating more than they ever have before. Alternatively, the skin may also become dry and flushed. As the body continues to lose fluids and begins to - quite literally - dry up, the skin, lips, and mouth may become hot and dry. Once the body no longer has sufficient fluids to sweat, any effort to try to cool itself down will eventually fail as dehydration kicks in.
Hyperthermia officially begins when the body's internal temperature reaches 105 degrees Fahrenheit or above. As the body is pushed to its limits, a person will feel worse and worse as symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and headaches begin to take over.
Eventually, heat syncope occurs as the consistent exposure to extreme heat forces the body to struggle through its most menial tasks, lowering blood pressure and weakening the heart, resulting in lightheadedness and even fainting.