Hypothermia and Fever after organophosphorus poisoning in humans--a prospective case series

Alison Moffatt, Fahim Mohammed, Michael Eddleston, Shifa Azher, Peter Eyer, Nick A Buckley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There have been many animal studies on the effects of organophosphorus pesticide (OP) poisoning on thermoregulation with inconsistent results. There have been no prospective human studies. Our aim was to document the changes in body temperature with OP poisoning. A prospective study was conducted in a rural hospital in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka. We collected data on sequential patients with OP poisoning and analyzed 12 patients selected from 53 presentations who had overt signs and symptoms of OP poisoning and who had not received atropine prior to arrival. All patients subsequently received specific management with atropine and/or pralidoxime and general supportive care. Tympanic temperature, ambient temperature, heart rate, and clinical examination and interventions were recorded prospectively throughout their hospitalization. Initial hypothermia as low as 32°C was observed in untreated patients. Tympanic temperature increased over time from an early hypothermia (<35°C in 6/12 patients) to later fever (7/12 patients >38°C at some later point). While some of the late high temperatures occurred in the setting of marked tachycardia, it was also apparent that in some cases fever was not accompanied by tachycardia, making excessive atropine or severe infection an unlikely explanation for all the fevers. In humans, OP poisoning causes an initial hypothermia, and this is followed by a period of normal to high body temperature. Atropine and respiratory complications may contribute to fever but do not account for all cases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-85
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Medical Toxicology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antidotes
  • Atropine
  • Body Temperature Regulation
  • Female
  • Fever
  • Humans
  • Hypothermia
  • Insecticides
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Organophosphate Poisoning
  • Palliative Care
  • Pralidoxime Compounds
  • Prospective Studies
  • Suicide, Attempted
  • Young Adult


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