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.
Who Gets Sunstroke?
Though anyone can get sunstroke, there are people who are more susceptible. They include children, the elderly, athletes, diabetics, alcoholics and those not used to extreme heat and sun. Certain medications can also make a person more prone to heatstroke. Ask your doctor about medications you are taking before venturing outdoors in the heat.
Signs to Look For
Symptoms of sunstroke include: • elevated body temperature • very dry or dehydrated skin • rapid pulse • headache • dizziness • exhaustion • nausea or vomiting
More Serious Symptoms
If sunstroke progresses, more serious symptoms can occur. These include: • mental confusion • hyperventilation • body cramps • painful spasms in arms and legs • seizure • coma
If sunstroke is not treated, eventually it can damage organs. Even death may occur if symptoms are prolonged. It is imperative that you treat a sunstroke victim at the moment there are signs.
What to Do if Sunstroke Strikes
It is important to lower the body temperature in a fast but monitored way. First, get the person to a shady area and call 911. While you are waiting for the paramedics to arrive, remove clothing and apply cool water to the skin. Place ice packs under the person's armpits and at the groin to promote sweating. Be sure to give the person enough liquids to restore hydration but not too much that he vomits. Vomiting will cause further dehydration.
To avoid sunstroke, it is important to stay hydrated by drinking lots of liquids and maintaining 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 hydrated.