The medical term for sunstroke is hyperthermia. This is an acute condition in which the body either produces or acquires more heat than it can control and is unable to cool down properly. Sunstroke is usually brought on by an excessive exposure to heat, usually that of the heat from the sun. The heat regulating mechanisms in the body are not able to cope with the heat and as a result the body temperature climbs to uncontrollable levels. When this happens, it is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention.

You do have to recognize the difference between sunstroke and a high fever that results from an infection in the body. This is normal because the body temperature rises to help the body fight the infection. A body the temperature of over 40ºC is a life-threatening situation, no matter what the cause.

One of the best ways of learning to deal with sunstroke is to be able to recognize its signs and symptoms. When the body becomes overheated, it will produce more perspiration than normal and this is one of the cooling mechanisms of the body. When the body is no longer able to produce the perspiration needed to draw the heat from inside the body, the temperature starts to rise. A patient suffering from sunstroke will likely be very badly sunburned. He/She may become confused and perhaps hostile to those around him/her. Complaining of a headache is a normal occurrence with sunstroke and the person may appear to be drunk.

With the rise in body temperature comes a decrease in blood pressure, which can result in the person feeling faint or dizzy or he/she may even pass out. This will cause the heart rate to accelerate as the heart tries to increase the supply of oxygen to the blood. The skin will become even redder as the blood vessels start to dilate as they try to reduce the body temperature.

Some of the similarities between sunstroke and fever include the feelings of chills or of being cold in spite of the high temperature. Sunstroke in children can result in convulsions and brain damage if not treated as soon as possible. In adults, it is usually accompanied by nausea and vomiting and there could be temporary blindness.

The treatment for sunstroke is to lower the body temperature immediately. The victim should be moved to a cool area and the clothing removed to let the perspiration come through all of the skin pores. A cool bath really helps to lower the temperature, but the victim of sunstroke should never be wrapped in cold cloths or towels. This only serves to keep the heat inside the body. Drinking cold water will also help to reduce the body heat.