Sunburns, Heat Stroke, and Heat Exhaustion

Man experiencing heat stroke

If you love your time in the sun, you know how punishing the heat can be. Even the most dedicated sun worshipper knows to protect themselves from it. If we don’t pay attention to the signs our body is sending us, serious harm could result. The risks of being in the sun aren’t just sunburns. While painful and uncomfortable, these are rarely life-threatening. What sun lovers really need to watch out for is heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Below we’re going to provide a guide to these dangers and how to tell the difference.

Sunburns, Heat Stroke, and Heat Exhaustion

Sunburns are a painful and uncomfortable condition that results from overexposure to UV rays. Our skin is good at protecting us from these rays. However, if we get too much a stinging red burn we’re all familiar with will form. If we get an excessive amount, our skin can blister and peel. Severe scarring and damage can occur if we remain in the sun for too long. Too much time in the sun also increases our risk of skin cancer.

While they often occur together, heat stroke and exhaustion don’t require sunburns to happen. These conditions can occur without any exposure to the sun at all, in fact. They both result from the increase of our internal body temperature beyond safe levels. Symptoms begin to appear once our body temperature increases beyond 103F.

Indicators and Symptoms of Heat Stroke:

  • Sudden Severe Headache: Any headache that sets in suddenly is a cause for concern. If you’ve been in high humidity and high heat situations, this may be a sign of trouble. Try cooling down to see if that helps.
  • Unexplained confusion: Agitation, confusion, dizziness, and disorientation are signs of heat stroke. If you’ve been out in the heat and are experiencing these, call 911. A heat stroke is likely.
  • Cold and chills while sweating: If you’re experiencing chills and are sweating, it’s a bad sign. When this occurs it’s time to start cooling down fast and get to the hospital.
  • Alteration in sweating: One symptom of heatstroke is the cessation of sweating when in hot weather. Skin that feels hot and dry is a critical sign. Get emergency help immediately.
  • High heart rate, nausea, vomiting, and rapid breathing: These are all red flags that heat stroke is imminent. Get help immediately.

All of these signs are indicators that you’re entering a critical stage. Heat stroke is a dangerous and potentially deadly condition. Avoiding it requires consistent hydration and ensuring you take time to cool down.

Stay Safe This Summer By Avoiding Heat Stroke

You may have noticed we haven’t mentioned heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion is essentially a precursor to heatstroke. During this stage, you’re entering the danger zone but can safely pull yourself out of it. If you’re still sweating heavily but are experiencing nausea or dizziness, it’s time to cool off. Often they’ll subside at this stage. If you’ve stopped sweating and are still experiencing the other symptoms, it’s likely a heat stroke. It’s not worth guessing at it if you’re unsure. Cool down and get emergency care immediately.


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