Heat 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 .
"The medical definition of 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. While 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 heat 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 heat stroke can occur. Heat stroke can be incredibly serious and can lead to:
- Changes in behavior
- Confusion seizures
"Paradoxically, despite the high temperatures, people suffering from sunstroke may not actually sweat," Dr. Wedgeworth noted.
Other, more commonly known symptoms:
- 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 heat 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 heat stroke
"True heat stroke is a medical emergency, so you need to seek medical attention as soon as possible," said the doctor. "While 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."
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.