- Dehydration contributes to sunstroke. Dehydration happens when your body excretes more water than it takes in. For example, increased water loss through excessive urination is a common side effect of caffeine, alcohol, and many prescription and over-the-counter medications. When the water supply in your body is low, cells begin to pull water from the bloodstream, forcing organs to work harder. Dehydration can also affect the skin's ability to cool the body efficiently. The heart must pump an adequate supply of blood to the skin in order for the skin to cool the body. When you are dehydrated, the blood's volume is reduced, so the cooling process becomes less effective. The taxing effect on the body escalates into the symptoms of heat-related illness.
- Prolonged exposure to the sun contributes to sunstroke. When body fluids are not adequately replenished, sun exposure can cause rapid dehydration. Even on mild or overcast days, the sun can have dangerous health effects. The heat index is a measure calculated by the National Weather Service. It indicates how hot it "feels" outside in the shade when both the air temperature and the relative humidity are considered. In the direct sun, the heat index rises even higher.
- Very old or very young age.
- Low level of physical activity.
- High blood pressure.
- Diseases of the skin, kidney, or liver.
- Decreased ability to sweat, such as in scleroderma and cystic fibrosis.
- Medications that can aggravate sunstroke, including water pills (diuretics), allergy pills (antihistamines), tranquilizers, anticholinergics, and amphetamines.
- Heavy, restrictive clothing.
- Poor ventilation or lack of air conditioning in home.
- High humidity.
- Red, dry, very hot skin (sweating has ceased).
- Pulse-strong & rapid.
- Small pupils.
- Very high fever.
- May become extremely disoriented.
- Unconsciousness and possible convulsions.
- Hydrate well before thirst kicks in. Once you are thirsty you are already dehydrated.
- Do not exercise vigorously during the hottest time of day. Try to train closer to sunrise or sunset.
- Wear light, loose clothing, such as cotton, so sweat can evaporate. Better yet, invest in some clothes that wick, like Cool-Max.
- Use sunscreen to prevent sunburn, which can hinder the skin's ability to cool itself.
- Wear a hat that provides shade and allows ventilation.
- Drink plenty of liquids such as, water or sports drink every 15 minutes (drink 16-20 oz/hour).
- If you feel your abilities start to diminish, stop activity and try to cool off.
- Do not drink alcohol or beverages with caffeine before exercise because they increase the rate of dehydration.
- Remember, it is easier to prevent heat illness than to treat it once symptoms develop.
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