Sunstroke or heatstroke is a life-threatening condition that needs emergency medical attention. Untreated sunstroke can damage the heart, brain, muscles, and kidneys in no time. Longer delay in treatment may worsen the damage further leading to serious complications or even death.

Heatstroke is characterized by the failure of the heat-regulating system of the body due to physical exertion in or long time exposure to extreme temperatures. Sunstroke is the most serious form of heat injury. It occurs when a person’s body temperature rises to 104°F or 40°C or higher. It is quite common in the summer season.

Who are susceptible to Sunstroke?

Though anybody can get heatstroke, however people who are more prone to get affected by it are athletes, alcoholics, children, people over 50 years of age and those who are not used to being exposed to high heat and sun. There are certain medications that can make a person more susceptible to sunstroke too.

Signs and Symptoms of Sunstroke

A few symptoms of sunstroke are elevated body temperature with changes in mental state like confusion, personality changes, and coma. The skin would dry and hot, however, if exertion is the cause of the heatstroke then the skin could be moist.

Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Shallow and rapid breathing
  • Rapid pulse or heartbeat
  • Fainting, which is mostly the first sign in case of an elderly
  • Stoppage of sweating
  • Lowered or increased blood pressure
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Confusion, irritability or unconsciousness
  • Nausea

Red Flags

Progression of sunstroke leads to serious symptoms like:

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

First Aid

When a person gets sunstroke, time is of essence. With immediate attention, a person’s life can be saved. Take the following measures when you see a person getting affected by extreme temperatures:

  • Get the individual away from the sun into a shady place or air-conditioned room.
  • Lay the person down with legs and feet at an elevated position.
  • Remove or loosen the clothing.
  • Offer the person cold drinking water or any other non-alcoholic and non-caffeine beverage.
  • Spray on or sponge the person with cold water and start fanning to cool down the person’s body temperature.
  • Keep the person under observation as heat exhaustion can soon become sunstroke.

When to Seek Medical Attention?Seek emergency medical help if the person has a fever higher than 102oF or shows symptoms like fainting, confusion or seizure. And also if at any given point in time, you feel that you, any family member or acquaintance is having or suffered sunstroke, rush to your nearest hospital to get immediate attention. Please ensure to do the same if you see a stranger on the road having a heatstroke.

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