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Hyperpyrexia: Definition, Causes & Symptoms

Hyperpyrexia: Definition, Causes & Symptoms
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  • 0:01 Definition
  • 0:25 Causes
  • 2:06 Symptoms
  • 3:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Heather Zonts

Heather has taught in AD and BSN Nursing programs and has a master's degree in nursing.

Explore how the body regulates temperature, see what causes changes in this regulation, and learn what happens when this regulation is no longer effective. The lesson includes a short quiz at the end.

Definition

Hyper means abnormally increased and pyrexia refers to fever. A fever is when the body's temperature rises above the normal 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Hyperpyrexia occurs when the body's temperature rises above 106.7 degrees Fahrenheit. This is considered a medical emergency and requires immediate medical treatment.

Causes

The hypothalamus is the thermostat for our body. It is located in the brain, and it regulates the temperature of the body. Hyperpyrexia causes the hypothalamus to change the body's normal body temperature set point.

Think about your home. In the winter, you set your thermostat to 76 degrees Fahrenheit because it is cold outside. So what happens? Your furnace turns on, raising the temperature in the house. One of your family members decides to turn up the thermostat even more because they are still cold. He raises it to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Again, your furnace turns on, raising the temperature in the house. The same thing happens with the thermostat in our bodies. Typically, the normal temperature for humans is set at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. In the event of an infection or trauma, this can raise the thermostat. When the thermostat is raised, our body reacts and raises our temperature, which, in the case of hyperpyrexia, would be above 106.7 degrees Fahrenheit.

The most common cause of hyperpyrexia is bleeding in the brain. This bleeding raises the internal thermostat of our bodies via the hypothalamus, which causes our body temperature to rise even higher.

Other causes include sepsis, when bacteria invades the body and causes a systemic infection in the blood stream; thyroid storm, when a thyroid gland is extremely overactive, impacting the function of the hypothalamus; and serotonin syndrome, which releases excess serotonin in the brain, also affecting the hypothalamus. Sometimes withdrawal from certain medications can affect our internal thermostat, as can the use of stimulant drugs, such as cocaine.

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