Sunburn is bad, but sun stroke is another matter entirely.
While it's nice to revel in the warm weather (when we get it) it's more important than ever to make sure you're being safe in the sun, or else you could end up with sun stroke.
Sun stroke, contrary to popular belief, is not simply hyperbole for a bit of bad sunburn. In fact, it's got very little to do with sun burn at all, as Dr Emma Wedgeworth, Consultant Dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson told Cosmopolitan.
"The medical definition of sunstroke (also known as heat stroke) is a core body temperature of over 40 degrees Celsius," Dr Wedgeworth explained. "The reaction is more to the heat than to the sun itself. Whilst the skin on the outside shows signs of sunburn, inside your body, organs can be damaged as well."
The doctor went on to describe how sun stroke can affect various different internal organ systems "such as the brain, caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures often in combination with dehydration."
It's because of this that some of the lesser known symptoms of sun stroke can occur. Sun stroke can be incredibly serious and can lead to:
- Changes in behaviour
- Confusion seizures
"Paradoxically, despite the high temperatures, people suffering from sun stroke may not actually sweat," Dr Wedgeworth noted.
Other, more commonly known symptoms of sun stroke - or heat stroke, as it's also referred to - include:
- A throbbing headache
- Red sore skin
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle weakness
Milder effects from overexposure to heat can include "heat related fainting, heat exhaustion and heat cramps," said the expert.
The reason sun stroke can affect your organ systems is because "your body’s cells require a very specific temperature range to ensure that all the machinery works properly. If the body is subjected to either temperatures that are too hot or too cold, it can damage the way organs, such as your brain, work," explained Dr Wedgeworth, adding: "People at the extremes of age and those with chronic health problems are most at risk."
What to do if you've got sun stroke
"True sun stroke is a medical emergency, so you need to seek medical attention as soon as possible," said the doctor. "Whilst doing that, move to a cool shady area, remove unnecessary clothing. Use fans or sponges with cool water to encourage temperature reduction and stop any exercise immediately."