What is Sunstroke?

Sunstroke, also known as heatstroke, is a life-threatening condition in which the body’s heat-regulating system fails due to exposure to high temperatures. It happens when the body is unable to rid itself of excess heat due to vigorous activity or a very hot environment. High temperatures can cause the body’s major organs to fail.

Heatstroke is the most severe of the heat-related problems, often resulting from exercise or heavy work in hot environments combined with inadequate fluid intake.

Who gets sunstroke?

Though anyone can get sunstroke, there are people who are more susceptible. They include the children, athletes, diabetics, alcoholics and those not used to extreme heat and sun. Certain medications can also make a person more prone to heatstroke.

What are the signs and symptoms of sunstroke?

The main sign of heatstroke is a markedly elevated body temperature (greater than 104 degree F) with changes in mental status ranging from personality changes to confusion and coma. Skin may be hot and dry — although if heatstroke is caused by exertion, the skin may be moist.

Other signs and symptoms may include

  • Rapid heartbeat / pulse
  • Rapid and shallow breathing
  • Elevated or lowered blood pressure
  • Stoppage of sweating
  • Irritability, confusion or unconsciousness
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Headache
  • Nausea (Vomiting)
  • Fainting, which may be the first sign in older adults

If sunstroke progresses, following serious symptoms can occur.

  • Mental confusion
  • Hyperventilation
  • Body cramps
  • Painful spasms in arms and legs
  • Seizure
  • Coma

First Aid

  • Get the person out of the sun and into a shady or air-conditioned location.
  • Lay the person down and elevate the legs and feet slightly.
  • Loosen or remove the person’s clothing.
  • Make the person to drink cool water or other nonalcoholic beverage without caffeine.
  • Cool the person by spraying or sponging him or her with cool water and fanning.

Monitor the person carefully. Heat exhaustion can quickly become heatstroke

If fever greater than 102oF, fainting, confusion or seizures occur, immediately take the emergency medical help.

How to prevent Sunstroke?

To avoid sunstroke, drink lots of liquids and maintain the body at a normal temperature when doing outdoor activities. Stay clear of alcohol and caffeine because they can cause dehydration. Wear light colored and loose-fitted clothing and take breaks often to get a drink and keep the body water level.

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