Heat Cold and Water Immersion Injuries

Karl Auerbach

Keywords: frostbite, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, hypothermia

Humans have a remarkable ability to function in a wide range of ambient temperatures and have practiced agriculture in tropical, semi-arid and subarctic regions to varying degrees. Despite the ability of humans to exist in these environments, the human body has a relatively narrow range in which its core temperature can function. When the core temperature is outside of this range, the efficiency of the person decreases, and serious consequences, including death, can occur.

The body keeps the central temperature within the appropriate range through several physiologic methods that serve to add or remove heat from the core. We supplement these physiologic processes by use of protective gear or techniques. When disease is present, the body may not be able to maintain the central core temperature within a viable range. Medications, nutrition, alcohol, and drugs may impact the ability of the body to maintain normal temperature. Activity can add to the stress on the temperature regulating mechanisms.

This chapter will discuss heat- and cold-related stressors, methods for responding to the stressors, and situations that affect the body's ability to function under these stressors. Signs and symptoms of heat- and cold-related problems will also be discussed.

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