The Ugly Side of Summer

It is that time of year again when we are packing our beach bags and heading into the sun. There is lots be to be excited about in the summer months from pool parties to our beloved outdoor braais to days spent lazing in the sun. The things we are not too excited about however are the hazards of all that sun exposure. While we love a good tan, sunstroke is a real concern and we need to know about it as well as the signs before heading off so we are equipped for this possible danger.

What is Sunstroke?

Sunstroke or heat stroke is the body’s rise in body temperature to above a normal range as well as an inability to regulate its own temperature due to prolonged exposure to the sun or extremely hot temperatures. This can be very dangerous over a prolonged period as it can cause severe damage to organs in extreme cases.

Symptoms of sunstroke 

Sunstroke usually occurs after a progression of other symptoms caused by easier body temperatures and is usually brought on faster when coupled with dehydration.

Milder symptoms heading towards sunstroke include:

  • Skin  redness
  • Heat Rash
  • Fainting
  • Dehydration
  • Thirst
  • Mild lethargy

The body does have certain mechanisms in place to regulate body temperature such as sweating, dilation of blood vessels to cool blood, decreased consumption of water within the body where it is less necessary and others. These only work to a point. Sunstroke will our when the body has exhausted these options and cannot cool the body at the same rate the external environment is heating it up.

These are some of the signs that someone may be heading towards sunstroke. When these symptoms are noticed, it is important that medical attention is sought immediately.

Signs and symptoms of Sunstroke:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Fast and shallow breathing
  • Severe migraines
  • Lack of sweat despite heat when dehydration occurs
  • Severe Muscle cramps
  • Dizziness and lack of mental coherence
  • Vomiting
  • Change in behaviour including unjustified aggression and hallucinations
  • Seizures and convulsions
  • Unconsciousness

Risk factors for sunstroke:

Although anyone can get sunstroke when exposed to heat for long enough, there are some people more at risk and some factors which can increase the risk of sunstroke. It is important to take extra precaution if one:

  •  Is over the age of 50
  • Is overweight or obese
  • Has a pre-existing health condition such as: high blood pressure, kidney disease or any condition that limits the body’s ability to regulate its temperature.
  • Has consumed alcohol prior or during sun exposure
  •  Is on certain medications including:anti-depressants, diuretics ,  heart and blood pressure medications , anti-psychotics, stimulants, antihistamines, sedatives, beta-blockers and antipsychotics,
  • Taking Illegal recreational drugs, which cause dehydration and raised temperatures

What to do when someone has sunstroke

Seek medical attention immediately. Luckily, if you have subscribed to Doctors –On-Call services, a doctor will come to you as soon as you call and tend to you from the comfort of your own home – or wherever you may be. Should you require hospitalization, you Doctors-on-Call is able to easily arrange it and will ensure you are taken care of.

Staying cool, hydrated and educated on the signs and symptoms of sunstroke as well as having medical contact numbers ( such as Doctors-on-Call, of course) on hand will make your summer days so much easier to enjoy without having to fear the medical hazard of sunstroke on your much-deserved summer break!

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