Sunstroke, a form of heat stroke, occurs due to prolonged exposure to sun’s heat radiation. Under normal conditions, in a hot environment, the body’s heat regulation system helps in releasing excessive heat by increasing blood flow to the skin and secreting sweat.
However, under sunstroke conditions, the body’s heat regulation system fails, which refrains the body from restoring its normal temperature. The body experiences extremely high temperature, and if left untreated, may lead to organ failure and life-threatening situations.
Sun’s waves produce heat radiation. Overexposure to such radiation acts on the body’s cooling system and disables it from maintaining the optimum level of sodium and chloride. As a result, the patient suffers from dehydration and elevated body temperature.
Signs & Symptoms
While experiencing Sunstroke, one may suffer from the following conditions:
- Hot and Dry Skin
- Hyperventilation (Rapid and Shallow Breathing)
- Rapid Heartbeat and Pulse
- High Body Temperature
- Less amount or no Sweating
- Muscle Cramps
- A headache
- Loss of Consciousness
- Mental Disorder, such as Incoherent Speech, Confusion, Agitated Behavior, Convulsions, and Hallucinations
For treatment of Sunstroke, one should consult a General Medicine Specialist
The Specialist will carry out the following examinations to diagnose Sunstroke:
This involves reviewing of symptoms and checking of body temperature and blood pressure
Blood tests and urine samples will reveal salt and electrolyte levels.
Treatment Modalities Available for Management of the Disorder
Treatment of sunstroke primarily entails lowering the elevated body temperature. In mild cases and while waiting for professional medical advice, simple treatment techniques help in bringing down the temperature. The cool water bath helps the body to lose excessive heat.
Moving away from a heated environment, removing constricting clothing, drinking water at regular intervals, and staying in a cool area, preferably in an air-conditioned room, aids in cooling down the body.
Once the patient arrives at the hospital, doctors consort to various cooling methods which help in rapid decline in the core temperature. External cooling methods include Ice Bath, Evaporation Cooling, and use of Cooling Blankets and Ice Packs. Intravenous Fluid Therapy helps in correcting imbalances.
If left untreated, Sunstroke can lead to dire consequences, such as, organ failure, brain damage, shock, and at times permanent injury or death.
Once diagnosed, it is extremely essential for the patient to drink adequate water and avoid exposure to sun or any other heated environment. One should also be cautious while taking certain medications, such as, antidepressants, beta-blockers, and diuretics, as these interfere with the body’s heat regulation system.
Dietary and Physical Activity Requirements
Patients suffering from sunstroke should limit exposure to sun or a hot environment and should stay in a cool or shady area. They should drink adequate fluid, and avoid strenuous activities during hot or humid weather.
Prevention of the Disorder from Happening or Recurring
The following measures help in preventing occurrence or recurrence of Sunstroke:
- While exposed to the sun, wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, and a hat with a wide brim to protect from sun’s dangerous heat radiation.
- Limit strenuous activity during the hottest time of the day
- Drink at least 5-6 liters of water in a day to avoid dehydration. While carrying out an activity under the sun, drink water at regular intervals of 20 minutes.
- Use of sunscreen or sunblock is of paramount importance.
- Limit the intake of alcohol in hot weather or humid conditions.
- Avoid medication which may intervene with the body’s heat regulation system.
- During summers, try staying in cool or shady areas.
Support and Help given by the Caregiver
Sunstroke is a medical emergency which requires immediate treatment. In order to avoid acute and life-threatening situations, caregivers should have pertinent information about rendering preliminary medical aid to the patient during critical and emergency situations.