Sunstroke is a life threatening condition caused by overexposure to extreme heat. Also sometimes called heatstroke, this condition occurs when the body’s heat control system fails and it cannot lose the excessive heat. High temperatures can cause the body’s major organs to fail.
There are a large variety of symptoms present with the onset of sunstroke. In the early stages, the skin will become both hot and dry. Sweating usually stops, and breathing becomes rapid enough to bring on hyperventilation.
The body’s temperature, along with the pulse, will begin to rise rapidly. Other symptoms include muscle cramps and headaches. There may also be some mental and verbal confusion. Speech may be unintelligible or incoherent, and violent behavior may appear.
As sunstroke becomes more severe, the sufferer may be prone to hallucinations. The body’s temperature will rise rapidly, and convulsions may occur. Finally, the sufferer will lose consciousness.
The cause of sunstroke is usually lengthy exposure to high temperatures. It can also be caused by heat exhaustion. People who work outside are susceptible, as are people who exercise for long periods of time without proper fluid intake.
Sunstroke can happen to anyone, but older people and children are more susceptible. If the body has had or is going through an illness, then sunstroke may occur more easily. Also, wearing clothes that are not suitable for high temperatures can contribute to symptoms.
Certain medications can also contribute to the onset of sunstroke. Antidepressants, beta blockers and diuretics may have an adverse affect and interfere with the body’s heat control system. Sudden cramps and muscle spasm are also symptoms.
If sunstroke occurs, a doctor or medical help should be sought immediately. Blood pressure and body temperature tests will be taken in order to diagnose the condition. Urine and blood samples may also be taken.
Depending on the extremity of the condition, a stay in the hospital may be required. Body temperature will need to be lowered as soon as possible. Fluids and salt will need to be replaced, usually by an intravenous (IV) drip. A period of observation will also be necessary to monitor any temperature changes and to look for any complications that may occur.