What is the difference between sunburn, sunstroke and heat exhaustion?

In a previous blog, I rather optimistically spoke about Spring being on the horizon, the grass rising … so now I may as well stretch that optimism further (boiiiinnnggg-ing) by casting my foresight towards the prospect of Summer and the Summer ‘oliday.

Summer breaks can be the make or … break between one maintaining one’s sanity in the workplace instead of plotting the demise of an annoying colleague around the water cooler, but before you pack in either your Borat costume or your dental floss bikini as the only necessity that you’ll need on the beach at Olu Deniz, have a squizz through this blog and understand that sun, sea and holiday could very easily end up being sun, burning to a crisp and coming home in an air ambulance.

Sunburn is caused by overexposure to UV rays, characterized by sore, red skin that can become itchy and even blister, if it’s severe enough. It can also be accompanied by fatigue and mild dizziness. Remember – even if you call your burn a tan, the fact of the matter is, tanning your skin only happens as a result of your skin being damaged.

Heat exhaustion is the result of exposure to very hot weather and signs can include fatigue, dizziness, headache, rapid pulse and breathing and muscle cramps. It can also lead to sunstroke – which can be fatal.

Sunstroke or heatstroke is caused by long-term exposure to very high temperatures, or dehydration. It can also come about if the body’s internal mechanism for regulating temperature is inadequate.

When does heat exhaustion become sunstroke?

Symptoms of sunstroke include:

  • Not sweating (a sign your body is no longer capable of regulating your internal temperature).
  • Skin that feels hot and flushed
  • Fever
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness

Why does this happen? Exposure to extreme temperatures can shut down your body’s capacity to keep you cool through sweating. This could lead to major organ failure, shock and unconsciousness.

Dehydration can exacerbate sunstroke.

We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again: water is your friend. Drink at least eight glasses a day and even more in hot weather and when you’re exercising.

Now, obviously, as you head off to soak up the sun, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to pack in work’s desktop water cooler – a) the work drones left behind may have a slight issue with this, b) the boss may lay theft charges against you and c) it’s rather unlikely that the airline will accept the water cooler as additional baggage no matter how you dress it up as a ‘can’t-leave-home-without-it’ item. So, in order to keep your cool (both temperature and vibe wise) this Summer, say it one more time with me:

Water is your friend. Drink at least eight glasses a day and even more in hot weather and when you’re exercising.

Happy ‘olidays.