A sunstroke occurs, when the sun shines on a persons head and parts of the neck for a long period of time. Unlike sunburns, which are caused by overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation, a sunstroke is the product of the sun’s long waves which produce heat (heat radiation). When experiencing a sunstroke, the body fails to regulate heat and this will most times end up in a high body temperature and fever.
A sunstroke is a type of heatstroke or hyperthermia, where the source of the heat acting on ones body is the sun. Sunstroke is the most common type of heatstroke and occurs due to a combination of dehydration and overheating of the body.
What are the usual symptoms?
The following symptoms are typical when experiencing a sunstroke: Hot and dry skin, rapid heartbeat and pulse, sweating stops, rapid breathing, increase in body temperature, muscle cramps, headaches, nausea, confusion and dizziness.
The symptoms tend to get worse the longer a person is exposed to sunlight and heat. If a person is not treated fast enough and stays in the dangerous environment, his life can be at risk. The loss of consciousness, fever and the damage of organs are the result if not treated.
Usually your body cools itself with the secretion of sweat. Depending on the humidity of the air, the sweat on your skin will evaporate faster or slower. The faster the sweat evaporates the faster it will cool your body and help preventing heat related issues such as sunstroke. But if the air is very humid as in tropical regions, the sweat will take much longer to evaporate thus not being able to cool your body fast. In these regions it is very important to always be careful.
How to act when experiencing a sunstroke
If you experience any of the following symptoms when outside in the sun and heat, or if you see anybody with these symptoms, get them out of the sun as soon as possible. The best option would be an air conditioned room or anywhere it’s cool. Drink a lot of water, because a sunstroke makes you loos a lot of water in your body. For a list of things you have to do look at our sunstroke treatment page.
How dangerous is a sunstroke?
As mentioned above there are very dangerous things that can happen. A person can lose consciousness, get a high fever and even the damage of organs can occur. If the signs are spotted fast enough and a sunstroke is treated it is usually not a big problem and a day in bed will most times be enough. But if not spotted fast enough and untreated it is a life threatening condition. So always be aware of the signals when in the sun.
Children are at risk
Children are even more at risk than grown ups. Kids will suffer much faster from sunstroke and it is important not to leave them in the sun for too long. Also keep in mind to always use sunblock or suncream on your children. Drinking water can help and will keep you and your kids from dehydrating.
Even though the sun is good for us, it has some very nasty side effects that you have to be aware of.