Side effects of sunstroke

Written by megan allyce snider
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Sunstrokes, sometimes called heatstrokes, are dangerous conditions in which the body is exposed to high temperature from the sun and strenuous activity without adequate hydration. After a while, with no moisture left, sweating stops and sunstroke begins to set in. The body becomes unable to rid itself of the excessive heat and the core temperature rises. Sunstroke may lead to convulsions, fainting and major organ failure. Treatment consists of cooling the body’s core temperature with exposure to cool water, beverages and ventilation.

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Dehydration

Dehydration is a common effect of sunstroke. Dehydration occurs when the body loses more water than can be put back into it. Loss of water and salts occurs due to profuse sweating after heavy exertion. After a heatstroke is experienced, it is necessary to reintroduce vital liquids into the body by drinking as much as one can. Avoid caffeinated, hot or alcoholic drinks in this instance. A cool bath or shower is also recommended.

Body and Cognitive Impairment

In sunstroke, hyperventilation, pulse and temperature all rise in the body, progressively increasing the likelihood of fainting. Hyperventilation consists of frequent, shallow and quick inhalations of breath instead of slow and steady inhalation, which the lungs and body are accustomed to. Shallow and rapid breathing puts a strain on the lungs and makes it harder for them to adequately fill with air. At the same time, speech may also become incoherent as the brain is affected by heat and hallucinations may appear. Erratic behaviour and violence may also ensue. The body begins to overexert physically and mentally and becomes overwhelmed.

Fainting

Fainting occurs for a variety of reasons with sunstroke. First of all, the body stops sweating. As a result, the body’s core temperature rises progressively, but there is no corresponding action to cool it off. Sweating occurs in response to heat exposure; droplets of sweat cool the body and are absorbed back into the skin. This does not occur with sunstroke, and the situation quickly becomes dangerous.

Long-Term Effects

Near-fatal heatstrokes can have serious long-term effects, including brain or nervous system complications, kidney and blood disorders, lung inflammation and even death. Many of these symptoms occur within a year of the initial sunstroke and were traced back to the original incident. Further prolonged exposure to the sun after the stroke may play a part in subsequent death and other serious consequences. These reactions were recorded in patients as young as 25 and apply to everyone who has experienced serious sunstroke.

Prevention

Sunstroke, even years after its original occurrence, is a great threat. It is a common misconception that sunstrokes apply to the elderly only. While the elderly are at a greater risk of sunstrokes, they can affect anyone who overexerts without proper hydration in sunny and hot weather. To avoid heatstrokes when sunny, hot weather can't be avoided, drink plenty of water, stay in shaded areas when possible and limit strenuous activity, taking frequent breaks. In addition, avoid drinking caffeinated beverages to keep yourself from becoming dehydrated. Any sunstroke should be treated immediately to stop the progression of further cognitive or bodily injury.

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