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How to treat sunstroke

Updated April 03, 2017

Sunstroke, also known as heatstroke, is a serious condition usually brought on by a combination of exercise or work out in the sun and insufficient fluid intake. Symptoms include a fast heartbeat, quick and shallow breathing, confusion, headache, nausea, lack of sweating, irritability and fainting. If you are outdoors and find yourself becoming overheated, you can do several things to lower your body temperature, which can reduce the risk of heatstroke. If you experience the above symptoms, however, you need medical care.

Move into the shade or indoors immediately. Find a place with air-conditioning.

Cool off with damp sheets and sprays of water. Use fans or a newspaper to help cool off.

Rehydrate with water or a sports drink; sip slowly.

Take a cool shower or bath if you have access.

Tip

You can prevent heat stroke. Stay well hydrated. If you must exercise or perform any activities out in the sun, take frequent breaks in cool shade. If possible, do these activities early in the morning or late in the day when it is cooler. Wear loose clothing that allows sweat to evaporate.

Warning

Call 911 if you notice any of these symptoms: a fast heartbeat, quick and shallow breathing, confusion, headache, nausea, lack of sweating, irritability and fainting. This indicates you have full-on heatstroke and will need medical care. Your doctor might immerse you in cold water or ice; use evaporation techniques, which involve misting cool water on your skin that is evaporated with a fan; or wrap you in a cooling blanket and place ice on certain areas of the body. If any of the treatments cause shivering, you will need medication to relax the muscles as shivering raises your temperature.

Things You'll Need

  • Shade or a place with air-conditioning, if available
  • Damp sheets
  • Spray bottles filled with water
  • Fans or a newspaper
  • Water or sports drinks
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About the Author

Kelli Cooper has been a writer since 2009, specializing in health and fitness. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Rutgers University and is a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise.