Traumatic brain injuries can have long-lasting effects on how our brain processes and interprets information. One common complaint among TBI sufferers is that they frequently feel hot or suffer from what’s known as heat sensitivity. As you might imagine, heath sensitivity only intensifies during the warm summer months, and left untreated, it can actually increase your risk of a serious heat stroke. In today’s blog, we explain why heat sensitivity can develop after a TBI, and how you can treat it.
Your body is constantly working to regulate its temperature, and all of this is happening behind the scenes in your brain. This temperature regulation is controlled by a part of the brain known as the hypothalamus, and it does this by balancing bodily fluids and releasing certain hormones at specific times. For example, when the body gets too hot, the body releases hormones that cause blood vessels to swell, which helps to bring heat to the skin, which is then released into the air. The hypothalamus also helps to active sweat glands to help naturally cool the body.
However, if the hypothalamus is damaged after a traumatic brain injury, its ability to perform these functions may be impaired. As a result, heat sensitivity can develop. Symptoms that can be indicative of heat sensitivity after a TBI include:
If the body becomes greatly overheated and cannot regulate its temperature as needed, heat stroke can occur. This can result in a reddening of the skin, headaches, speech difficulty and even a loss of consciousness.
Treating heat sensitivity involves treating the symptoms of the condition as well as the underlying cause, which is the TBI. If you’re starting to feel overly warm or experiencing other symptoms of heat sensitivity listed above, you’ll want to do what you can to help cool your body down. This involves things like sitting in front of a fan or in an air-conditioned area, staying hydrated, and using a cool or damp towel on your skin. Taking a cold shower is not advised in case you have balance issues or would happen to lose consciousness.
Dressing appropriately is also important if you suffer from heat sensitivity. Wearing breathable clothes and hats to help shade your face can help your body from becoming overheated as easily.
As for the underlying cause, it can be a bit tougher to treat the TBI that’s affecting your hypothalamus, but that’s what will help to put an end to your heat sensitivity altogether. Taking time away from physical activity like sports or work can give the brain the time it needs to heal, and consulting with a neurospecialist can help you get an individualized treatment plan for caring for your head injury. Dr. Chang has helped treat patients with head injuries that were causing heat sensitivity and other cognitive deficits, and he can do the same for you. For more information, or to set up an appointment, reach out to Dr. Chang’s office today at (651) 430-3800.