Sunstroke • Symptoms, duration and what to do?

A sunstroke is caused by prolonged, strong sunlight on the unprotected head and neck. Symptoms typically only appear later, when those affected are no longer in the sun. What are the signs of sunstroke and how to treat it.

A sunstroke threatens with high outside temperatures and lots of sunshine. This is a heat-related irritation of the meninges caused by strong sunlight on the head. In addition to heat exhaustion, heat stroke and heat cramps, sunstroke is one of the clinical pictures in emergency medicine known as heat damage.

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Sunstroke: Typical Symptoms and Signs

Often the symptoms of a sunstroke do not appear until hours later, sometimes when those affected have long since stopped being in the sun.

Symptoms of sunstroke:

In severe cases, sunstroke can lead to inflammation of the meninges. Symptoms include pain in the head and neck area when the head is bent forward. Often the muscles in the neck are also tense (neck stiffness, meningism).

Cerebral edema can develop as a complication of severe sunstroke. Then symptoms such as headache, nausea, vomiting and dizziness as well as seizures, impaired consciousness and impaired breathing appear.

How does a sunstroke occur?

Continuous exposure to the sun directly on the unprotected head and neck area causes sunstroke. The meninges are irritated by the resulting heat, causing an inflammatory reaction. Infants, children and people with little hair are particularly at risk. Even if the neck is exposed to the sun uncovered for a long time, for example when cycling or when people work outside, the risk of sunstroke is increased.

The duration of the sunstroke usually varies

As a rule, the symptoms of sunstroke are short-lived, in most cases they subside within a few hours to a maximum of two days. If the symptoms persist for several days, if new symptoms appear over time or if they become worse, those affected should seek medical help immediately.

Sunstroke: what to do?

In the event of a sunstroke, those affected should be placed in the shade immediately and, if possible, in a cool, darkened environment. If possible, the person should lie down with their head and, if necessary, upper body elevated. With cold towels, envelopes, ice cubes or cool packs, the head and neck can be cooled – in the case of very cold applications, do not put them directly on the skin, but instead pack a piece of fabric in between.

In addition, those affected should drink a lot. In order not to put additional strain on the circulation, the drinks should not be too cold. If a lot of fluids and minerals have been lost through profuse sweating, the drinks can be lightly sugared and salted. An electrolyte solution from the pharmacy can also help to compensate for the loss of minerals.

In the event of unconsciousness, it is essential to call the emergency doctor – this also applies if the condition of the person concerned deteriorates and does not improve. In the case of children in particular, medical help should be called early.

This will prevent sunstroke

To avoid sunstroke, head and neck should be protected from the sun – especially in the warm summer months. It is best to wear hats that also protect the neck, for example sun hats with a wide brim or hats and caps with fabric. Since light-colored fabrics reflect more light and heat, they are more suitable than dark-colored materials.

The following measures also help to prevent sunstroke on hot, sunny days:

  • Drink plenty of fluids, preferably two to three liters a day

  • Don’t go into the blazing sun. Especially at lunchtime from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., look for more shade.

  • Do not stay too long in the sun, not even when you are in the water that supposedly cools your body. It is best to wear a hat here.

  • Exercise only moderately at high temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius. However, it is better to move the sports unit to the cooler morning and evening hours.

  • Do not keep children waiting in the heated car, as the hot air can quickly build up in the vehicle

  • Children under one year of age should always stay in the shade and not be exposed to direct sun.

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Source: Lifeline | Das Gesundheitsportal by www.lifeline.de.

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