Heatstroke isn’t sunstroke! Detect them early, because they can cause serious health complications

Article

11. 07. 2023

The most common summer health problems are those caused by the sun’s rays – heatstroke and sunstroke. Many of us mistakenly believe that these two illnesses are the same. However, that is not the case, as these two conditions differ in their manifestations and consequences. They are both very serious and it is definitely advisable that they not be underestimated. If these ailments are not treated in a timely manner, they can cause damage to the brain and other organs, for example. Therefore, if symptoms of heatstroke or sunstroke appear, first aid should be administered immediately. But what should you do if there is not a doctor nearby?  

Heatstroke and sunstroke are illnesses caused by high temperatures. Whereas sunstroke primarily involves overheating of the brain, heatstroke can affect the whole body. Both ailments pose the greatest danger to children, seniors and chronically ill people. However, we should not underestimate them even if we do not belong to one of the at-risk groups.

Heatstroke, or overheating of the body

Heatstroke is typically caused by high temperatures and a lack of fresh air. It can occur not only during vacations under the hot sun in exotic locales, but also away from direct sunlight, in hot and poorly ventilated spaces, for example. “The human body’s normal temperature is 36.0°C to 36.9°C, but in the case of heatstroke, it can reach 40°C. The body is then unable to conduct away the excess heat, which results in a high body temperature, nausea, dry and red skin and an increased heart rate and rapid breathing. In more severe cases, loss of consciousness may occur,” says MUDr. Petra Bomberová Kánská, general practitioner and head of the Doctor Online 24/7 medical service.

Sunstroke

Sunstroke is overheating of the brain, which always results only from exposure to the sun. Symptoms of this illness include overall weakness, exhaustion, vomiting, fever and warm or even burned skin. “I recommend that people follow simple rules for preventing heatstroke and sunstroke when they are on vacation. They should not forget to maintain a regular hydration regimen. It is also appropriate to avoid direct sunlight and to ideally relax under an umbrella or in the shade when on the beach, for example. It is also necessary to wear a head covering,” says MUDr. Petra Bomberová Kánská.

A doctor can remotely help with overheating

Treatment for sunstroke and heatstroke are very similar – the key thing is to rest in a cool room with sufficient fresh air and fluid intake. We should rest lying down with our feet elevated. It is important to drink enough fluids – water, unsweetened tea and mineral beverages are appropriate. These should be sipped slowly so that the fluids do not induce vomiting. A cold compress on the forehead or a cool bath can also provide relief. If the condition worsens, it is necessary to immediately seek medical attention or call the emergency medical service.

However, we do not always have a doctor nearby, or in an exotic foreign country we don’t know who to contact or how to describe our problem to a local doctor. In such a case, we can use an expert consultation with a doctor remotely (in Czech) via the myCanadian app, which offers access to the Doctor Online 24/7 service. Through this platform, it is possible to connect with a general practitioner via chat or video call from anywhere at any time.

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