Signs And Symptoms Of Sunstroke


If you spend a lot of time outdoors either working or having fun in the summer sun, you need to know the signs and symptoms of sunstroke.

Sunstroke can be deadly in some cases, especially if the victims are very young or elderly. Knowing how to avoid getting sunstroke could save someone’s life.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Sunstroke?


#1: Throbbing Headache

One of the first signs of sunstroke is throbbing in your head. It generally has the rhythm of your heart. The pain will get more intense in bursts, with periods of less-intense pain. If you feel pulsing at the temples or across the forehead, it could be a warning sign that you’ve had too sun.

Get out of the sun immediately. If you can’t go indoors, at least go to a shady place. Put a cold cloth across your forehead or rubbing an ice cube from temple with ease the pain and throbbing.

Drink as much water as you without becoming waterlogged. Dehydration is a major factor in sunstroke.

#2: Nausea or vomiting

Feeling nauseated and/or throwing up may indicate you have sunstroke.

According to the National Institutes for Health, UV radiation is toxic, with long-term effects that may reach the genetic level. While the skin is first to react to this toxin, resulting in sunburn, internal systems also feel the toxic effects.

One of the body’s first responses to toxins is to try to expel them.

If you begin to feel nauseated, and especially if you vomit, get out of the sun.

Lie down, put a cold cloth on your head, in your armpits, and around your groin to lower your body’s core. These places have the largest arteries and will move the cooler blood throughout your body faster. Slowly sip water to stay hydrated.

#3: Dizziness

Prolonged sun exposure can cause dizziness for two reasons:

  • 1) the physical heat and humidity, and
  • 2) toxic UV light.

The dizziness can present itself in a few different ways.

Most commonly, it is the feeling that either you are spinning or things are spinning around. It may also cause others to be light-headed. In some cases, it may be accompanied by vision issues or ringing in the ears.

Dizziness may be a precursor to another, more serious, symptom of sunstroke, fainting or loss of consciousness.

If you feel dizzy, sit or lie down, preferably out of the sun.

Try to have someone stay with you or at least check in on you in case you do lose consciousness. Drink water and lower your body temperature with cold cloths, or ice packs.

#4: Hot, Dry Skin

Though it may seem counter-intuitive, one of the key signals that your body is overheating is a lack of sweat.

Your body produces sweat as a means of cooling itself, so when your internal temperature regulator stops working (which is the basis of heat stroke), you stop sweating.

If you feel hot but aren’t sweating, or if your skin feels hot, tight, dry, and perhaps even painful to the touch, you probably have sunstroke.

Cool your skin by taking a cold bath and  drink plenty of water to rehydrate from the inside out. If your skin is also sunburned, try a soothing, cooling gel with aloe.

Get out of the sun, or if that’s not possible, cover yourself in light clothing to protect your skin from further overheating and burns.

#5: Rapid Heartbeat and/or Rapid Breathing

When your body overheats, its systems begin to shut down. This failure is often signaled by an erratic heartbeat. Rapid, shallow breathing may also occur, either on its own or in conjunction with an increased heart rate.

If you feel like your heart is racing and/or you can’t catch your breath, you should seek help immediately!

Getting out of the sun and bringing down your core temperature is your priority.

Use cold cloths or ice packs in the armpits and groin, or a cold bath or shower, is a good first aid. However, an increased heart rate and difficulty breathing are both potentially serious and should be addressed by a healthcare professional.

#6: Confusion/Disorientation

Too much sun can have a similar effect as too much alcohol. People with sunstroke may seem confused or disoriented, and may even stagger or slur their speech. While you should pay attention to any sign of sunstroke and get out of the sun at the first indication, behavior changes can be a sign that something is wrong.

Increased heart rate and rapid breathing, disorientation can have serious consequences.

Get out of the sun, drink water, and try to reduce your core temperature with a cold bath or shower, or by placing ice packs around the core (back, armpits, and If the confusion worsens or doesn’t pass, contact medical assistance.

#7: Loss of Consciousness

The most severe sign of sunstroke is loss of consciousness. This could be a brief fainting spell or a more prolonged state.

Usually, someone with sunstroke will exhibit signs prior to losing consciousness. That’s why it’s important to get out of the sun and begin treatment at the first of the symptoms.

This is serious and is usually a sign of severe sunstroke. If left untreated, it can lead to death.

If you faint, seek help. If you’re with someone who loses consciousness, call 911 for assistance, and ask the attendant what you can do to assist the person until help arrives.

Knowing the signs and symptoms of sunstroke can save lives.

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