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The body is very effective in maintaining our correct temperature in extreme conditions of heat and cold. We can go skiing in freezing cold conditions or lay on a hot sunny beach.

We control our temperature by various means. We remove or add clothing, we move into the shade or swim to cool down, or go inside and sit by a heater to get warm. These are conscious actions and choices we make. Our bodies also have an automatic thermostat which maintains our temperature by adjusting circulation and heartbeat as well controlling our environment. Our bodies shiver to warm us up and perspire to help us cool down. 

Problems can occur when this thermostat does not function correctly due to extremes in temperature.

When the body heats up we can get HEAT EXHAUSTION. With this, the patient becomes very hot and sweaty and has increased respiration and distress. Heat exhaustion can be controlled by moving the patient into a cooler environment and giving him sips of water and keeping them calm.

HEAT STROKE is a much more serious condition. This is where the body's thermostat fails due to extreme temperature. With heat stroke, do not give the patient anything to drink. With heat stroke patients, the most obvious sign is that they no longer sweat and their skin is dry. This is because the body reduces blood supply to the non-vital organs(i.e. the skin) and this prevents perspiration.

Treatment is to cool the person using cold wet towels or a hose until the emergency services arrive. Keep monitoring the patient at all times for his ABCs.

One important factor in any heat-related problem is dehydration. So whenever you are at extreme temperatures, ensure that you drink plenty of water so that your body is hydrated enough to control its own temperature effectively.

The body can also suffer ill effects due to the cold, which is called hypothermia. This is caused by a drop in body temperature of just two degrees. If you find someone with hypothermia, it is important not to rapidly reheat them since this can complicate matters and could even put them into cardiac arrest.

Water or wet clothing can draw heat out of the body 20-25 times faster than air, so it is important to ensure that the person is out of the water, free of wet clothing, and dried by patting gently with a towel, not rubbed dry.

Hypothermia signs include uncontrollable shivering, disorientation, confusion, and in some cases, the patient can be unresponsive. With severe hypothermia, the pulse can be slow and weak and often difficult to detect. Hypothermia is not just found in patients outside. Often people can suffer from hypothermia in their own home. This is often the case with the elderly trying to save money on heating costs.

It is worth mentioning two other cold-related problems. The first is FROSTNIP. This is where the skin freezes and becomes red, white and painful. Warming frost-nip can be done by getting the patient to put her fingers under her arms.

FROSTBITE is more serious and an EMS Medical Emergency. This is where the body's tissues, muscles, and vessels freeze. With frostbite, re-warming should only be attempted slowly using water no more than 40 degrees. Never rub or massage frostbitten areas; the re-warming process is usually very painful.