What exactly is sunstroke and how can it be treated?

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Forget about the nightmare of sunburn because sunstroke is on another level...

Woman sunbathing on the beach in a bikini
Lots of people claim to have 'sunstroke' after a long summer day lounging in the park, but they're more likely to be a bit hot and bothered. Actual sunstroke is a dangerous combination of dehydration and over-heating of the body that can cause fever, sickness and dizziness.

If you're off on holiday or getting ready for a weekend outside, now's the time to get clued up on the dangers of over exposure. Take a look at our guide to sunstroke below...

So, what is sunstroke?

Sunstroke occurs when the sun shines on your head and neck for long periods of time. Unlike sunburn which is caused by overexposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays, a sunstroke is the result of the sun's long waves that produce heat. When the body experiences sunstroke, it fails to regulate your internal heat resulting in fever, headaches and sickness.

What are the typical symptoms?

We're not going to lie, the symptoms are pretty awful! You might experience hot and dry skin, a racing heartbeat, a lack of sweat, rapid hyperventilating, fever, muscle spasms, headaches, sickness, confusion, dizziness and even hallucinations.

The longer you're exposed to the sun, the worse the symptoms become, so cut your risk and wear a hat. In really serious cases, a loss of consciousness, fever and damage to the internal organs can result from sunstroke, so go to the doctors if you're feeling really naff.

Why does the body do this to us!!

Normally your body will cool itself down by sweating. When the air temperature is warm and the humidity is low, sweat will evaporate taking surface heat with it. In really sticky, humid environments sweat doesn't evaporate properly so your body can't cool down quick enough. In these sorts of conditions sunstroke is more likely to occur.

The symptoms of sunstroke can develop over several days in at-risk groups like the elderly, children and those with long-term health problems. Young people are more likely to get a form of heatstroke referred to as exertional heatstroke, after running around and playing sports in hot weather.

What should I do if I get sunstroke?

GET OUT OF THE SUN! We all want a nice golden tan, but it's not worth risking your health. Drink lots of water and use cold flannels to try and call the body down. Take off sticky clothes and, if you can, get completely naked to allow your natural sweat process to work. In serious cases the NHS recommends you call 999.

Remember, kids are even more at risk than adults, so make sure they're wearing plenty of sun-screen, hats and are drinking loads of water. It's also worth staying out of the sun during the hottest part of the day (between 11am - 3pm).

How long will it take me to recover?

Usually recovery takes 24-48 hours depending on the severity of your case. Drinking plenty of water will speed the process up. Remember prevention is better than cure, so stock up on these sun creams under £20...

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