Sunstroke, heatstroke that is caused by exposure to sunlight, occurs when the body runs out of ways to adequately cool itself. Proper prevention will help you avoid sunstroke, which is a very serious and life threatening condition. There are a few simple steps you can follow to prevent common factors that lead to sunstroke, which will help you avoid it altogether.
Stay out of direct sunlight.
The direct cause of sunstroke is exposure to extreme heat and sunlight. The first step to preventing sunstroke is to stay out of direct sunlight. This is especially true on hot days. Make sure you keep your bare skin away from direct sunlight as much as possible. If you have to be out in the sun, wear a hat or walk with a light umbrella.
Trips to the beach and other outdoor locations are common in the summer. In these situations, try to give yourself a break from the sun as much as you can. Sit down under a beach umbrella or take a walk into a nearby store with air conditioning to ease some of the stress from the heat on your body.
Avoid going out at the hottest part of the day.
The most dangerous time of day is the time midday to the afternoon when it is the hottest. Try to go out in the early or later parts of the day if you want to enjoy the outdoors or have to work outside. Also avoid exercising outside during this time of day as well. Exercise causes your body temperature to rise, which will make the likelihood of sunstroke even worse, especially if you are in the direct sun.
The sun is strongest between the hours of 9 am to 4 pm.
If you want to spend a lot of time outside in the heat, or if you have to work outside in the heat, get yourself acclimated to the weather first. Start out with small shifts in the heat, building up your resistance to the elevated temperature that you are not used to. As you get used to it, you can start spending more and more time outside, but always remember to take breaks from the heat to give your body a break.
It can take several weeks for your body to fully adjust to hot weather, so be patient and take it slow.
You can also acclimate yourself a little at a time as well. Turn off the air conditioner in your house when you know you are going outside later in the day. This will slowly raise your body temperature and help you get accustomed to the heat before you even step outside.
Avoid enclosed spaces.
Another way to get sunstroke is being in an enclosed space with no air flow. This can be a house without air conditioning or fans, a car without the windows open, or any other small, enclosed room that has no cool air movement. If you live in an area without air conditioning, buy fans to help circulate air. This will help cool down the temperature and lower your body temperature. You should also open the windows in the room, which will help you circulate more air as well.
Never leave yourself, a child, a loved one, or an animal in a locked car, even if you have the windows down. This can cause major problems because the air in the car will heat up to extremely hot temperatures on a warm day. The temperature in a car can go up by 20° F (6.7 °C) in just 10 minutes.
Many cities also have public cooling spaces during heat waves — check online to see if there is one near you.
If you don’t have or can’t afford air conditioning, try to spend time in public spaces that have it, such as shopping malls, movie theatres, museums, etc.
Drink plenty of fluids.
One of the main reasons your body suffers from sunstroke is because it runs out of ways to cool itself. This happens when your body stops producing sweat, which is the way it naturally cools. In order to keep yourself hydrated so you can sweat properly and normalize your body temperature, you need to drink plenty of nourishing fluids. This includes while you are outside and when you come back in. Replenishing what you lost is very important.
Water is the best thing to drink while you are outside or preparing to go outside. Also try sports drinks with added electrolytes if you are undergoing vigorous exercise outside.
Make sure you start off the day with plenty of water when you know you are going to be outside. You want to already be hydrated when you go outside so you don’t start off with less water than you need.
Do not drink alcoholic or caffeinated beverages because they cause dehydration.
Aim to drink at least a quart of fluids an hour, or a cup every 15 minutes.
Wear light, loose fitting clothing.
When you know you are going to be outside in the heat, make sure you wear clothes that are not constrictive. They should be lightweight and in a breathable material, such as cotton or linen. This will help keep your body cool and allow you to sweat properly.
Make sure you do not wear too much clothing either. An overabundance of clothes can raise your body temperature unnecessarily.
Wear long sleeve shirts to protect your skin if you are going to be out in the direct sunlight for extended periods of time, but make sure any shirt or pants you wear are loose and allow your skin to breathe.
Protect yourself from sunburn.
Another way that you can develop sunstroke is through sunburn. This is because sunburn limits your body’s ability to cool itself. To protect yourself from sunburn, wear sunscreen whenever you are going to be out in direct sunlight. Wear broad spectrum sunscreen that is at least SPF 30. Reapply throughout the day because the sunscreen will come off through sweat, water, and activity. This is especially true at the beach, even if you are under an umbrella. You can get sunburn from the sun’s reflection off the sand.
Also wear hats and sunglasses if you are particularly sensitive or you want an extra layer of protection.
Look for the symptoms of heat exhaustion.
Heat exhaustion is a serious but treatable condition that acts as a precursor for heat stroke in the majority of cases. In order to prevent sunstroke, be aware of the symptoms of heat exhaustion. These symptoms include nausea, fatigue, vomiting, headache, weakness, muscle cramps, muscle aches, and dizziness.
If you notice these symptoms early on, you can treat them and avoid progressing to sunstroke, which is much more serious and requires medical attention.
Treat heat exhaustion.
If you notice the symptoms of heat exhaustion, treat them at home in order to prevent your condition from worsening. Get out of the heat immediately. Go into a cool, shady place, preferably one with air conditioning. Also drink plenty of water or fluids containing sugar and salt. This will help get your hydration back on track and raise your electrolyte levels. If you have on too many clothes, remove a few layers to allow your skin to breath. Try applying a cool cloth to your skin to help take down your body temperature.
Don’t drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages. It will only make your condition worse.
If you do not feel better within 30 minutes to an hour, call your doctor.
Seek immediate medical care.
In some cases, individuals may skip heat exhaustion symptoms and go straight to sunstroke suddenly and without warning. You should seek immediate care if you suddenly have symptoms of sunstroke. These symptoms include high body temperature, a lack of sweating, red, hot, and flushed dry skin, difficulty breathing, rapid pulse, hallucinations, confusion, strange behavior, disorientation, agitation, and seizures.
In some rare cases, you can also slip into a coma.
If someone you know is suffering from sunstroke, you can help cool them while you wait for emergency services. Get them indoors or into a shaded area, remove excess clothing, and cool the person by whatever means you can. This can include giving them a cool shower, spraying them with cool water, or giving the an ice pack or cold, wet towel on areas that regulate temperature, such as the head, neck, armpits, and groin.