How does body temperature regulation take place inside your body? How does a problem in this system affect the body? Answers to these questions and many more regarding this important body function are mentioned in this article.
All mammals are warm blooded and have the ability to adapt themselves according to the change in temperature. This peculiar mechanism of body temperature regulation is absent in cold blooded species. The process of maintaining the body’s temperature at a steady level is also known as thermoregulation. Failure of this process gives rise to health complications. This article will explain the biological process of maintaining it and the malfunctions of the normal system.
Temperature Regulation Process
Thermoregulation and homeostasis are interconnected with each other. Our body generates heat by the process of conduction, convection, radiation, and evaporation. These processes help in adaptation during change in weather and climatic conditions. The normal temperature of the body is 98.6°F or 37.0°C. To help you understand better, a simple explanation is given below:
Mechanism 1: Surrounding Hot
- When the surroundings are hot, the skin loses heat, in order to keep the body cool. Heat is lost in the form of sweat, secreted by the sweat glands from the surface of the skin as water droplets. This process is known as evaporative cooling and is required for maintaining a ideal temperature in the body.
- The hair on the surface of the skin are extended flat with the help of small muscles (erector pili), underlying the skin, that prevents entrapment of heat in between hair follicles. Circulation of air is increased and heat is lost by convection.
- In such a condition vasodilation takes place and the smooth muscles present in the arteriole walls are relaxed. This enhances the rate of blood flow through the artery and blood gets redirected to the superficial capillaries. The result is rapid heat loss by conduction and convection.
Mechanism 2: Surrounding Cold
- During cold climatic conditions the body has to retain heat inside. Thus, sweating takes place at a minimal rate. The activity of the sebaceous glands is considerably reduced, thereby preventing heat loss by evaporation.
- Hair follicles stand upright by contraction of the erector pili, the process is known as piloerection. This forms an insulating layer, that traps heat. The condition is popularly known as goose bumps.
- Blood gets rerouted to the warmer core of the body as the arterioles shrink. The core temperature of the body does not drop and heat loss by evaporation is prevented. This process is also known as vasoconstriction and an excess might cause pale and numb skin.
- The thermo-regulatory center of the brain or the hypothalamus becomes active causing a person to shiver. Shivering produces heat and is an adaptation of animals and human beings to combat extreme cold.
- The stored fat inside the body gets converted to heat by the activity of the mitochondria. This further increases the temperature of the cells. Thus, keeping the body warm during winter.
Disorders of Temperature Regulation
Problems regulating the body’s temperature is evident when the body fails to maintain the ideal amount of heat required for adapting to hot and cold environmental conditions. This also happens if the person is suffering from any health disorder. There are two conditions, namely hypothermia and hyperthermia responsible for the fluctuation in the average body temperature.
The condition wherein the body temperature falls below normal levels required for all types of body functions and metabolic activities is known as hypothermia. The temperature drops below 35.0° C or 95.0° F. A person is more likely to suffer from frostbite, frostnip, trench foot, and chilblains. This condition is attributed to many health disorders like hypothyroidism, kidney failure, diabetes, Addison’s diseases, liver failure, etc. The symptoms are slow heartbeat, drowsiness, shivering, slow breathing, pale skin, numbness, etc.
When the body absorbs more heat than it can evaporate, it causes the elevation of the core body temperature and this condition is known as hyperthermia. It’s a serious health condition. Rapid rise in the temperature might stop the functioning of the brain, causing death. It takes place due to multiple reasons. The main reasons behind high body temperature are the excessive intake of drugs, heat stroke, and malfunctioning of the central nervous system. This condition is different from viral or common fever. The condition becomes life-threatening if the temperature rises to 40° C /104° F, or above. Increase in temperature at critical levels might also occur due to autoimmune diseases, inflammation of hypothalamus, hormonal imbalance, and high intensity exercises.
Take a quick look at the temperature variation of the body and the response of the body to it.
- 28 °C ~ Muscle failure
- 30 °C ~ Loss of temperature control
- 33 °C ~ Loss of consciousness
- 37 °C ~ Normal function
- 42 °C ~ CNS breakdown
- 44 °C ~ Death
N.B. ~ The conditions mentioned under the above mentioned list are more likely to happen if a person is suffering from serious health concern. It differs according to the health of an individual.
Warm blooded animals have extremely intricate body functions that make them so adaptable to environmental changes. It is important that we maintain healthy lifestyles to keep away from such problems.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject.