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Hyperthermia in its advanced state referred to as heat stroke or sunstroke, is an acute condition which occurs when the body produces or absorbs more heat than it can dissipate. It is usually due to excessive exposure to heat. The heat-regulating mechanisms of the body eventually become overwhelmed and unable to effectively deal with the heat, therefore the body temperature climbs uncontrollably. This is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention.

Hyperthermia can be created artificially by drugs or medical devices. In these instances it may be used to treat cancer and other conditions. Malignant hyperthermia is a rare complication of some types of general anesthesia.

The opposite of hyperthermia is hypothermia, when an organism's temperature drops below that required for normal metabolism.

A fever is when the body recognizes its normal core temperature at a higher temperature, mainly by the pre-optic region of the anterior hypothalamus, as to optimize the efficiency of bodily operations. One example of this is when one gets a bacterial/viral disease, where the body raises its temperature to let the immune system work better and to deteriorate the condition of the invaders. Meanwhile, hyperthermia occurs when the body temperature is raised without the consent of the heat control centers.

Body temperatures above 40C (104 F) are life-threatening. This compares to normal human body temperature of 36-37C (97-98F). At 41C (106 F), brain death begins, and at 45C (113F) death is nearly certain. Internal temperatures above 50C (122F) will cause rigidity in the muscles and certain, immediate death.  Heat stroke may come on suddenly, but usually follows a less-threatening condition commonly referred to as heat exhaustion or heat prostration. After effects may include sensitivity to heat.

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