Have you ever suffered from sunstroke? If you have, you know how awkward it can be. If you haven’t, it’s time to find out how it happens and what to do then.
Summer has begun, and with it the warm and sunny days. The ideal time for the appearance of the accompanying summer “warnings” not to sunbathe too much. Because, if we relax too much, the sunstroke will warn us to think carefully next time when and how we are exposed to the sun.
Nice weather entices us to go out and spend a lot of time in the sun and expose our body to the sun’s rays almost directly. We all want to look beautiful and tanned, so we can overdo it.
One part of that beauty depends on your complexion, the other on whether you have cellulite or your skin is smooth and even. We don’t need to emphasise what is more beautiful.
Whether it’s about our wish to get tanned, enjoy with our friends by the sea, lakes, rivers, in the charms of swimming pools and aqua parks or we are eager to wander around the city, we should always keep in mind the dangers lurking behind excessive sun exposure and hot and sultry weather. One of them is sunstroke.
Sunstroke is a type of heat stroke or hyperthermia and is the most common type of heat stroke, which occurs due to a combination of dehydration and overheating of the body.
Sunstroke (heat stroke) is an acute, life-threatening condition in which our body fails to regulate body temperature, due to long-term exposure to high temperatures, elevated body temperature or most often a combination of these two factors.
The body is not able to reduce the heat adequately in order to return to its normal temperature. Body temperature rises to very high levels, which can lead to damage to vital organs.
Sunstroke may be preceded by heat exhaustion. It occurs when the body, in order to cool down and maintain a normal body temperature, sweats excessively and so the body loses a large amount of liquid and salt, which makes it weak.
Heat exhaustion becomes sunstroke when the body can no longer maintain a normal body temperature. Heat exhaustion can be accompanied by heat cramps: sudden painful muscle cramps in the arms or legs, and sometimes the abdomen.
What causes sunstroke?
When it is very hot, our body releases excess heat through increased blood flow in the skin, sweating and exhaling warm air. These mechanisms can sometimes be overloaded.
When the blood temperature rises above normal, the control centre in the brain (hypothalamus) signals the bloodstream to increase blood flow and dilate blood vessels, especially those in the skin.
The more blood flows through the dilated blood vessels, the more heat is released from the blood. If that is not enough to cool the blood, the sweat glands begin to produce sweat, which cools the skin.
However, if the air temperature is very high, the blood cannot cool enough while circulating through the skin. Also, when we lose too much liquid, the amount of blood decreases and the body temperature rises.
If the body continues to generate heat faster than it can lose it, the temperature can reach dangerous levels, causing heat exhaustion, sunstroke or heat stroke.
Sunstroke occurs when the body or parts of it, especially the head, nape and parts of the neck, are exposed to the sun for a long period of time.
Unlike sunburns, which are caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, sunstroke is a product of long waves of the sun that produce heat, or so-called heat radiation.
When experiencing sunstroke, the body does not regulate heat properly and high body temperature and fever usually occur. However, in order to cool the brain, the body sends more blood to the head, blood vessels dilate and thus its volume increases sharply.
Then appear the symptoms that are not at all harmless, similar to a concussion, and in some cases unconsciousness and coma.
Sunstroke usually occurs after exposure to high temperatures, for example, from working in an extremely hot environment, too strenuous exercise, especially in summer or when you have a high body temperature due to illness.
Excessive clothing, overeating, and excessive alcohol consumption can all contribute to this condition.
Humid weather also makes the cooling mechanism from sweating less efficient. Usually our body cools down just by sweating. Depending on the humidity in the air, sweat on the skin will evaporate faster or slower.
Faster evaporation also means faster cooling of the body, which prevents conditions related to excessive heat. But, if the humidity is very high, as is the case in the tropics, sweat will take much longer to evaporate and thus our body cannot cool down quickly. It is therefore very important to always be careful in these areas.
Signs and symptoms of sunstroke
Typical symptoms when the body experiences sunstroke are as follows: warm and dry skin, which is pale or becoming purple, usually sweating stops, then rapid heartbeat and pulse begin, rapid and shallow breathing, rapid increase in body temperature to 40 degrees C (104 degrees F) or more, cramps in muscles, headache, dilated pupils, nausea, confusion and dizziness.
Signs of a mental disorder can include incoherent speech, disorientation, confusion, aggressive speech or behaviour, anxiety, and hallucinations. In more serious cases, lethargy or numbness can occur, when reactions become extremely slow and sluggish, but also spasms and loss of consciousness can occur.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion that often precede sunstroke may include: weakness and fatigue, muscle tension or muscle pain, nausea and vomiting, pale, moist and sticky skin, increased sweating, confusion, dizziness and fainting, dark yellow or orange urine, headache , diarrhea.
These symptoms, although they usually occur at normal body temperature, should not be ignored.
The symptoms of sunstroke tend to get worse if the person is exposed to the sun and heat for a long time. If a person is not treated quickly enough and remains in a dangerous environment, it can be life-threatening. Loss of consciousness, fever and organ damage are the results that occur in such cases of non-treatment.
Anyone who is exposed to high temperatures is at risk of sunstroke, but there are certain groups that are especially at risk and must be very careful to reduce the possibility of it and avoid this condition.
In addition to children and the elderly, there are also people with certain chronic conditions such as arteriosclerosis, heart disease, diabetes, alcoholism. Certain disorders and skin diseases can interfere with heat loss.
Also some drugs can interfere with temperature regulation, e.g. gastrointestinal drugs containing atropine, antidepressants, antipsychotics, antihistamines, drugs for certain cardiovascular disorders, diuretics and drugs used for Parkinson’s disease.
People who participate in certain types of sports activities, such as long-distance running or cycling, are also at high risk. If you really need to train in the heat or prepare for outdoor competition, which you know will be at a high temperature, gradually get your body used to these conditions.
Start with shorter and less intense workouts and slowly increase the length and intensity. Of course, all this should be done with taking enough liquids and making breaks.
How to treat a person with sunstroke?
Sunstroke, as already mentioned, is a serious condition and should not be taken lightly. If you find yourself in the situation of helping someone who suffers from sunstroke, we will mention the basic steps you can take yourself.
First, remove the person from the sun and heat to a cooler place, at least in the shade or a cooled room. The first goal when you notice that a person has symptoms of heat exhaustion is to slowly lower the body temperature. If you can do this successfully at an early stage, the body will naturally recover itself.
However, if you think someone suffers from the sunstroke and the milder symptoms last longer than an hour, call an ambulance or take the person to a hospital immediately. While you are waiting for medical help, give the person first aid.
To reduce fever, take off the clothes and immerse the body in a cold bath. If this is not possible, cover the body with a wet sheet or towels. If you have limited access to these things or water, cooling the head and neck becomes a priority.
Avoid very low water and ice temperatures and do not do this if the person is unconscious. Instead of ice, cool the person with a newspaper, towel or electric fan. Raise the legs to direct the blood back to the head.
Limb massage (arm and leg) can also encourage the return of colder blood to the brain and body. Do not massage the body with alcohol, which quickly reduces the temperature, because large temperature differences can be life-threatening.
If the person is conscious, give him or her a sip of water or a soft drink. You can also dissolve a teaspoon of salt in a liter of water. This is very important to avoid dehydration and loss of salt through sweating.
Do not allow him to drink quickly, because it can cause shock. If you don’t have any salt, plain water will also help.
If the person vomits or is unconscious, do not put anything in their mouth.
Don’t reach for medicines! Our first instinct is to take medicine when we are not feeling well. If a person suffers from sunstroke, certain medications will only make the situation worse.
It is also important to place the person in a supine position. One of the most prominent effects of sunstroke is fainting, so you will protect it in this way. If the person fainted, turn him on his left side and bend his left leg for stabilization.
This position is called a recovery position. The left side is the best side for blood flow, because our heart is on that side. Check the person’s mouth and position it so that he does not suffocate.
Can sunstroke be prevented?
There are certain guidelines and rules of conduct that can help prevent heat-related illnesses, including sunstroke and heat exhaustion.
For a start, pay attention to the weather conditions. If the temperature is above 30 degrees C (86 degrees F), be careful. Avoid staying outside and direct sunlight. If you really have to work or train in these conditions, take breaks often.
Use sunscreen creams, always wear a hat or cap, preferably with a wide brim, especially if you work in the sun. The head is particularly sensitive to heat and needs to be protected. Wear comfortable, light, light-colored clothing in warm weather, preferably made from cotton.
One of the hidden dangers, but also a common cause of sunstroke, is sitting in a hot car. Do not do that and do not leave children in the heat in the car, even for a few minutes.
Drink plenty of liquids, preferably plain water, to keep your body hydrated. Don’t wait to feel thirsty and drink more water than you need to quench your thirst, especially if you are sweating.
Pay attention to the colour of the urine, it should remain light yellow in colour. Avoid coffee and caffeine in general.
Also, avoid alcoholic beverages outdoors during hot days. Eat lighter food and take it over several smaller meals.
Ask your doctor if the medications you are taking can interfere with your body’s temperature regulation. If you use such drugs, be especially careful, limit your efforts and drink enough water in hot weather.
Try to recognize the danger and signs of this disease. Keep in mind that symptoms can develop over several days or suddenly during strenuous activities.
How long does a sunstroke last?
If it is milder, the sunstroke can last for several hours. However, if the condition is more serious, the person is monitored for the next two days. In such cases, seeing a doctor is mandatory.
Home remedies for sunstroke
As with many diseases, nature has tried to give us a solution or at least tools to alleviate the problems. Sunstroke can be prevented by adding green vegetables and fresh juicy fruits to your daily diet during the summer.
Eat lots of pineapples, mangoes, watermelons, oranges, cucumbers and the like and so help the body to refresh itself and thus maintain a normal temperature even on hot days.
Onions are the best weapon to fight sunstroke, because they have a good tendency to absorb heat. Make a thick paste of onion and place it on the patient’s forehead.
Dried fenugreek leaves (a plant from the pea family) have magical powers. Take a few fenugreek leaves and soak them in water. After a while, remove the leaves by hand, strain and add a little honey. Give this liquid to the patient every two hours and its healing effect will be shown very quickly.
Two to three glasses of whole milk a day will protect you from the sunstroke. Use it during treatment, until complete healing. Alternatively, yogurt mixed with water can be used. These foods play an important role in keeping your body temperature under control.
Unripe, green mango is another natural remedy against this disease. Cook the mango, strain it, then add a little sugar, black salt, fried cumin powder and black pepper powder. A glass of this drink before going out in the sun has a protective function.