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What Are Sun Stroke Symptoms

Discover what the sun stroke symptoms are and some of the causes

What is sun stroke?

Simply put, sun stroke is a condition where the body has become overheated, usually as a result of being exposed to too much sun or high temperatures for an extended period of time. It can be serious if not treated quickly, as it can affect your heart, lungs and kidneys.

Understandably, the risks of sun stroke are much higher during the summer months, but it can occur at any time - especially if you’ve been exercising vigorously. If you suspect that you or someone you know is showing signs of sun stroke, it’s important that they receive medical attention immediately. 
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Is sun stroke the same as heat stroke?

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They both refer to the same condition where the body is unable to maintain a reasonable temperature to continue to function. Some might prefer to use the term heatstroke because the sun doesn’t always need to be present for heatstroke to occur. 


Both do differ to heat exhaustion though - this is slightly different, in that you can usually recover from it quite quickly (usually within 30 minutes). It does have the potential to turn into a full heat stroke, so it’s vital to seek treatment quickly. 

What causes sun stroke?

Sun stroke - or heatstroke - and heat exhaustion happen when a person’s body is unable to regulate its own temperature. 

Predominantly, when we’re too hot, our body sweats to help us cool down. But if we’re particularly warm, the body may not be able to produce sweat quickly enough to cool us down before we start feeling unwell. 

There are some studies that suggest using a sunscreen can help to keep the body cool in the sun. While it absolutely will not prevent a sun stroke, sunscreen does help to protect your skin from burning, which will of course increase your body temperature. 

When choosing a sunscreen, it’s best to choose one that has the highest level of protection against the UVA and UVB rays that burn the skin - so choose a factor 50, such as the NIVEA Protect & Moisture Trigger Sun Spray SPF50.

What are the sun stroke symptoms?

As temperatures rise, it’s important to keep an eye out for signs that a person might be experiencing a heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Sun stroke symptoms can start with something as simple as muscle cramping or a high temperature, which can quickly turn into: 

- Severe headaches
- Dizziness and disorientation
- Feeling of confusion
- Nausea
- Sudden loss of appetite
- Excessive sweating and pale, clammy skin.
- Rapid breathing or pulse.
- Unquenchable thirst
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Oftentimes, if someone is already showing signs of sun stroke, they might not be in a position to help themselves. They might be feeling very weak and unable to move - so it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on people who are most at risk. 

Who is at risk of heat stroke?

Anyone could have a heat stroke - but people who fit into the following categories are the ones most at risk:
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Someone who is particularly young or old may be more at risk of sun stroke than other age groups - so typically children under the age of 4 and adults over the age of 65 are particularly susceptible. This is largely because the body’s ability to regulate temperature at this age is more difficult.


Due to heightened body fat, someone who is overweight may be at risk of sun stroke. This is because the body retains heat more than thinner bodies do, which makes it tougher for the body to cool down once it begins to overheat.


Some medications may increase a person’s heat sensitivity, which could mean that they’re more likely to have a sun stroke. Some examples of medications that may cause this are those that are used to treat heart conditions or high blood pressure. 

Climate adjustments 

If a person is used to living in a cooler country than the one they’re visiting on holiday, then they may struggle to adjust to the temperature difference. This is where the body can begin to overheat, which can lead to heat exhaustion or a sun stroke. 
You’re also more likely to experience a heat stroke if you’re dehydrated, which can further be amplified if you’ve been drinking alcohol. So if you have been enjoying some alcohol in the sun, it’s key to keep drinking water regularly to ensure that your body isn’t dehydrated. 

Heat stroke in children

Young children are particularly at risk of being affected by a heat illness such as sun stroke, so it’s important to keep a close eye on them during the hot summer months. Knowing how to keep them safe in the sun is vital, particularly as it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to recognise the sun stroke symptoms in the same way that an adult might do. 

We must do everything we can to keep kids safe - so ensuring they’re at least keeping their skin protected with a good quality sun cream will help to make sure their skin doesn't get burnt, which could increase their body temperature.

NIVEA Kids Ultra Protect & Care Sun Lotion SPF50+ provides highly effective UVB and 5 star UVA protection for children's delicate skin.

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How to treat sun stroke

The most important thing to remember when it comes to sun stroke treatment is to seek medical attention if the sun stroke symptoms are lasting for more than 30 minutes. This is a sign that heat exhaustion has turned into full heat stroke, which can be very dangerous. 

If the sun stroke symptoms have only just started to show, then there are a few things you could try for sun stroke treatment: 

- Drink water or sports drinks - rehydration is super important, so drink as much water as you can. Sports drinks are also great for replacing electrolytes that your body will have lost through excessive sweating.

- Move to a cooler location - if you’ve been sat directly in the sun, try moving into a shaded area to allow your body to cool down. If you’re indoors, try removing an item of clothing. 

- Take a cold shower - to help your body temperature decrease rapidly, a cold shower will help you cool down. Alternatively you could try ice packs if you have them.  

- Lie down - try not to take part in any strenuous activity whilst you try to recover - even walking. Any physical exertion is likely going to increase your body temperature even more, which you should avoid. 

Again, sun stroke is considered a medical emergency. So if you’ve tried one or two of these and the sun stroke symptoms have still not subsided, call your local emergency services and try to see a doctor right away.