CPR First Aid

Reactions to Extreme Burns and Extreme Heat

Most people have likely experienced a light burn or scald. These usually come from heated objects, sparks from outlets, and even smartphones that have been charging way too long. 

Then, there are those who have experienced direct injuries from fires. The higher the temperatures go, the worse the damage will be.

How high or hot does the temperature have to be to start introducing radical and intense injuries? How hot does it need to be for skin and fat to melt off? What negative effects do high temperatures bring about? 

Read on through as we take a look at the effects of extreme burns and extreme heat. Let’s start it off by examining burns closely.

What Are Burns?

There are generally three types of burns that people experience: scalds, contact, and inhalation.

A scald is when the skin has been damaged by a hot liquid or steam. A contact burn is a skin burn when it comes into direct contact with a heat source, like a stovetop. And lastly, an inhalation burn is when hot gases have been inhaled and have damaged the lungs.

These burns are further categorised into degrees and types.

Three types of burns: scalds from hot liquid/steam, contact from heat source, inhalation.

Degrees

These can all be further broken down into first, second, and third-degree burns

A first-degree burn only affects the epidermis, which is the outermost layer of skin. This kind of burn is similar to getting a sunburn and will likely heal on its own within a week.

A second-degree burn will damage the epidermis and the next layer down, which is the dermis. This kind of burn will likely result in blistering and will take longer to heal

A third-degree burn is the most serious kind of burn as it damages all layers of skin and often some of the tissue below. These kinds of burns will likely require skin grafts in order to heal properly

Types

Apart from degrees, there are also several types of burns. These include:

  • Thermal –  These are the most common type of burns and occur when the skin comes into contact with a heat source, like boiling water, open flames, or hot metal
  • Chemical – These occur when the skin or eyes come into contact with an irritant, like an acid. Inhaling certain chemicals can also result in chemical burns
  • Electrical – These happen when high-voltage electricity passes through the body and damages tissues
  • Radiation – These can be either internal or external. Internal radiation burns happen when radioactive materials are ingested, while external radiation burns come from exposure to ultraviolet rays

What Happens To People When They Experience Extreme Burns?

The human body is mostly made up of water—about 60%. When we experience a burn, this water starts to quickly evaporate, which in turn causes further damage to the skin and underlying tissue.

Damage of Degree Burns

As mentioned before, first-degree burns only damage the epidermis, so there isn’t much to worry about other than some redness, swelling, and pain.

Second-degree burns are more serious as they not only damage the epidermis but also the dermis. This layer of skin is where we have our sweat glands, hair follicles, and blood vessels. When this layer is damaged, it can cause blistering, deep redness, and severe pain.

Third-degree burns are the most serious kind of burn as they damage all layers of skin and often some of the tissue below. These kinds of burns will likely require skin grafts in order to heal properly.

Inhalation Burns

Inhalation injuries are also extremely dangerous as they can cause damage to the lungs. Inhaling hot gases can cause swelling and fluid build-up in the lungs, making breathing difficult.

Extreme Heat can also lead to shock, which is when the body is unable to pump enough blood to the vital organs. This can cause organ damage and even death.

Extreme Burns and Our Bodies

Now that we know a bit more about extreme burns, let’s take a more detailed look at how they affect our bodies.

What Temperature Does the Human Body Burn At?

The human body can start to experience burns at around 43 degrees Celsius. Take note that the normal body temperature is 37 degrees Celsius.

At this temperature, the proteins in the skin start to denature, which means they change shape and structure.

This change in structure leads to further damage as the proteins can no longer perform their normal functions.

This would also mean that if the temperature starts to rise, then more negative effects can be expected.

Could Skin Melt if it Was Hot Enough?

Yes, skin can melt if it is exposed to high enough temperatures.

However, it would take an extremely high temperature for this to happen

For example, a study found that it would take a temperature of approximately 700 degrees Celsius to melt human skin! Fortunately, there are very natural phenomena that see this to happen.

One of these can be found when a volcano erupts. The flow from these volcanoes can reach these deadly temperatures.

At What Temperature Can Hot Water Instantly Burn Skin Off?

Hot water can cause serious burns if the temperature is high enough.

For example, water at 60 degrees Celsius can cause a third-degree burn in just five seconds!

This is because the proteins in the skin start to denature and break down at this temperature.

This means that it doesn’t take long for the hot water to cause serious damage.

At What Temperature Would Fats Start to Melt?

For fats, the answer is quite interesting. It is largely dependent on where fats are located within the body.

For instance, visceral fat – or fat that is hidden within a person’s body – would take anywhere from 30 to 35 degrees Celsius. While this isn’t as hot as other extreme heat points we’ve discussed, we are currently covering the effects of exercise and burning in relation to that. This generally also relates to surgical procedures that aim to melt these fats off.

What Temperature Would You Have to be Exposed To In Order To Die?

There is no one answer to this question as it depends on a number of factors.

For example, if you have a higher body fat percentage, then you would be able to withstand higher temperatures than someone with less body fat.

That being said, exposure to temperatures above 70 degrees Celsius can be deadly

At this temperature, the body starts to shut down and vital organs begin to fail.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule and some people have been known to survive temperatures as high as 45 degrees Celsius.

Hottest Temperatures People Can Withstand

As mentioned previously, the hotter it gets, the worse it gets for people. Despite that, people do exhibit resilience towards heat. With that said though, there is a limit. So, what are the hottest temperatures people can withstand?

According to a 2020 study, the highest temperature people can survive is around 35 degrees Celsius. Some may be wondering why this temperature is lower than the normal human body temperature. This is because the experiences outside and inside of the body are different.

With that said though, there are certain factors that need to fall into place.

Hotter it gets, worse for people. Yet, resilience persists. But there's a limit. What's the max heat humans endure?

 

Humidity as a Factor

Even with the temperature at 35 degrees Celsius, if the humidity is low, then it won’t push the body to its limits. Extreme heat researchers state that humidity is a big factor that affects the survival of people. This means that both temperature and humidity must be quite high to be dangerous to people.

This deadly combination hampers the body’s ability to regulate its internal temperature. People can sweat, but the cooling system won’t be able to keep up.

When this happens, the body will not immediately give out. It can take up to three hours to kill a person.

What Is The Hottest Temperature Ever Recorded?

The hottest temperature ever recorded was on September 13, 1922, in El Azizia, Libya. The mercury hit a whopping 56.7 degrees Celsius!

Interestingly enough, this record has been disputed in recent years as some believe that the instruments used were not accurate.

Regardless, it’s safe to say that temperatures above 50 degrees Celsius are extremely rare and dangerous.

Despite that, once body temperatures reach 40 degrees, hyperthermia is brought about, bringing with it its own set of symptoms. Let’s learn more about this condition.

On Hyperthermia

Hyperthermia is brought about by extreme heat. It happens when the core temperature of a person reaches anywhere from 37.5 to 38.3 degrees Celsius. In layman’s terms, this condition is when a person’s core body temperature reaches high levels.

Hyperthermia can manifest in many forms or types.

Hyperthermia Types

Cramps

The first form of hyperthermia comes in the form of heat cramps. It affects body parts like the arms or legs and is a direct result of the heat making a person sweat and lose required electrolytes.

Exhaustion

Next up is exhaustion. Once it gets too hot, a wave of exhaustion hits people. They feel very tired and, if left untreated or unchecked, can have fatal consequences.

Rashes

The third form is rashes. The high heat makes a person’s skin react, leaving blisters or rash clusters in an area. These usually occur in body parts that rub together or are obscured like in the folds of the neck, under breasts, or in the groin area.

Stress

This next one occurs more in people who work in hotter conditions. These include construction workers, firemen, or anyone who works under the sun. While not as serious as the others, it can directly lead to heat exhaustion.

Stroke

The final type we have is heatstroke. This is considered the worst type. At this stage, the overloading temperature in the body can directly affect a person’s brain as well as the vital organs needed to survive.

Hyperthermia Symptoms

Apart from these types, several symptoms manifest in people experiencing hyperthermia. These include:

  • fatigue;
  • headaches;
  • increased heart rates;
  • lower blood pressure;
  • vomiting; and
  • general weakness

Fortunately, all of these symptoms and types can be avoided or treated by following the right steps.

Treating Hyperthermia

Treating heat cramps, stress, exhaustion, and rashes is fairly simple. These are considered very mild symptoms, and with these following steps, they are easily managed.

  • Stopping any activity and resting in a cool and shaded area.
  • Stretching out any cramps and drinking water.
  • Letting the body air out by removing any hot clothing.
  • Replacing electrolytes within the body by drinking sports drinks.
  • Not drinking caffeinated drinks.
  • Placing cold compresses on infected rash areas or hot parts of the skin.
  • Managing irritation of the skin by keeping the affected area dry.

These are only simple treatments for the first four types though. Heatstroke is very serious and an entirely different thing.

Managing heat cramps, stress, exhaustion, and rashes is straightforward. Follow these steps for relief.

Treating Heatstroke

With heatstroke as serious and fatal as it is, the first thing that should be done is to always get to a hospital immediately. Once there, treatment can be offered.

However, it is possible that when waiting for transportation like an ambulance, the effects of heatstroke can take over. When that happens, follow these simple steps:

  • Introduce cold water to people by immersing them in a tub or spraying it on their body
  • Create or take ice packs and place them on the neck and groin areas
  • Do not take any medications such as aspirin. These may serve to worsen any symptoms

At the hospital though, patients will likely need cold IV fluids to help cool the body.

Calm and Cool

The effects of extreme burns and extreme heat on the human body are numerous with potentially deadly consequences. The good thing though is that we’ve learned a lot about these extreme temperatures and their effects on the body.

The one thing we can see from all of this though is that these conditions and effects are easily preventable. All one needs to do is take this information to keep calm and cool.

Supplement all this knowledge with the right burn first aid practices that will help in treating and preventing heat-related conditions.

Learn more about it through CPR First Aid’s Liverpool course today.

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