How to avoid and treat sunstroke

Summer is here. And, so are long, sun-baked days at the beach.

Planning to catch a tan? It may seem like a good idea, but soaking up too much sun can be really dangerous and may even increase your risk for sunstroke.

What is sunstroke?
Sunstroke is a life-threatening condition (yes, really!), in which the body loses its ability to maintain a normal temperature. The body’s temperature becomes dangerously high, which can then place strain on the brain and other major organs.

Sunstroke is caused by prolonged exposure to the sun or heat, or both, and is considered a medical emergency. It can develop within minutes or gradually over a few hours.

Signs and symptoms to look out for:

  • A core body temperature of 40°C or higher.
  • Hot, dry, red skin.
  • No sweating, despite the heat.
  • A throbbing headache.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Shallow breathing.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Dizziness and light-headedness.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Mental changes: confusion, disorientation, and hallucinations.
  • Behavioural changes: incoherent speech, staggering, and irritability.
  • Muscle weakness and cramps.
  • Loss of consciousness.

Get clever against the sun

Stay safe and prevent sunstroke:

  • Wear light-coloured, loose-fitting, lightweight clothing to allow your body to cool properly. Cotton is best as it allows air to pass through and sweat to evaporate.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat. Your head is especially sensitive to heat.
  • Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more to avoid sunburn. Being sunburned affects the way in which your body cools down.
  • Limit your exposure to the sun during the hottest part of the day (between 10am and 4pm).
  • Drink plenty of water, especially if you spend a lot of time in the sun or in a hot environment. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty. Drink more water than you need, particularly if you’ve been sweating, to prevent dehydration. It’s generally recommended to drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
  • Avoid hectic, intense activity when it is hot or humid. Schedule outdoor activities for the coolest times of the day (early in the morning or after sunset). If you have to be active during the day, don’t overdo it and maintain a pace that allows your body to adapt to the heat. Increase your fluid intake and take lots of little breaks in the shade.
  • Improve indoor air circulation: open the windows, use a fan, or get air conditioning.
  • Cut your alcohol and caffeine intake as these substances cause you to lose more fluids than you consume, which can worsen heat-related illness.
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References:

http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/heat-stroke-symptoms-and-treatment#1

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266551.php

http://www.health24.com/Medical/Diseases/Sunstroke-Client-20120721

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Heat-exhaustion-and-heatstroke/Pages/Introduction.aspx