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A Discussion On The Principle Ways In Which Heat Is Gained And Lost By The Body, Explaining The Various Mechanisms Involved In The Regulation Of Body Temperature

1574 words - 6 pages

Since evolution began Man has spread to all areas of the globe, his ability to regulate his body temperature independently of his external surroundings contributes significantly to this success. This assignment will discuss the methods by which heat is exchanged, the effect of this exchange on the body and how it is utilised in thermoregulatory mechanisms. The importance of these regulatory measures will be demonstrated by a brief description of the effects on the body when they do not function properly.Body temperature is not constant, as discussed by Heath (2003), it fluctuates in accordance with endogenous and exogenous variables, such as metabolism and ambient temperature. Regulatory mechanisms help keep the core (internal) temperature within a narrow range of 36.1°C to 37.8°C (the 'set point'). To keep within this narrow range a balance must be maintained between heat loss and heat gain. The body has three mechanisms it can draw on to achieve this: generating its own heat, gaining heat from the environment and loosing heat to the environment. This movement of heat between the body and surroundings occurs by conduction, convection, radiation and evaporation.Movement by conduction requires two solid objects in direct contact with each other e.g. when standing barefoot heat will be conducted from the soles of the feet to the floor. This exchange will continue until contact is broken or equilibrium is reached, at this point the floor ceases to drain heat from the feet, acting instead as insulation. As a result, Clark & Edholm (1985) estimate the role of conduction in thermoregulation to be no greater than 2%.Convection is the transfer of heat by a moving gas or liquid. Heat from the skin transfers to the surrounding air, as the air is heated is becomes less dense and rises to be replaced by cooler air. Convective heat loss is considered minimal by Heath (2002) without the presence of air currents which speed the process of heat loss by continually moving warm air away, thus increasing the convective heat loss of the skin. The body also uses convection to ensure an even distribution of heat internally; heat is carried by the blood from areas of high heat such as the liver and the brain to areas of low heat.Radiation is the transfer of heat by electromagnetic waves between two separate bodies. Radiation is described by Blatteis (1998) as the only method of heat transfer independent of air temperature and movement, depending entirely on the temperature and character of each surface. Heat radiates from many surfaces in a room, if the sum of radiation given off in an area is greater than the radiation produced by the body heat will be gained, if less, heat will be lost.Evaporation uses heat energy to change liquid to gas. The body is constantly loosing heat to the environment through water vapour in breath and evaporation of water secretions on the skin. These are insensible losses as they are outwith the control of the body. Evaporation...

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