Spending time outdoors is one of the best things about summer, especially if you are someone who just can't get enough of the sunshine. Who doesn't love beach trips, barbecues, and days in the park soaking up the sun? We all know wearing sunscreen is key to protecting our skin, but high temperatures can result in more than a blistering sunburn — it can also cause your body to dangerously overheat. When your body overheats, the most severe illness that can develop is a heatstroke; but overexposure to high temperatures can also lead to heat exhaustion, heat rash, and heat syncope (fainting). If you experience any signs that your body is overheating, get inside STAT.
In most cases, getting out of the heat and into an air-conditioned space is enough for the symptoms to taper off on their own. Once you get inside, the Mayo Clinic advises that you drink as much water as possible, lie down with your feet elevated, and take a cool shower or bath, or have someone sponge or spray you with cool water. If your symptoms worsen, get to the doctor — and it's wise to have someone stay with you if you've exhibited signs of overheating. It's still possible to pass out once you're inside, so have a friend keep an eye on you until you've stabilized.
Here are seven signs that your body is overheating — use them as a reference to know when it's time to get outdoors and crank up the air conditioning.
1. Tingling Skin
According to Professor Larry Kenney speaking to NPR, early symptoms of both heat exhaustion and heat stroke including a tingling sensation in the skin and goosebumps. If you experience either of these, you can definitely still avoid heat exhaustion or heat stroke by immediately heading indoors before the symptoms escalate.
2. A Headache
Headaches are a characteristic of both heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat-related headaches can range from dull to throbbing — either way, they're a red flag that your body desperately needs to cool down as soon as possible.
3. Weakness & Fatigue
If you're overcome with exhaustion and your body feels weak, you've begun to overheat. Along the same lines, feelings of confusion, agitation, and anxiety are another signal that your body is well on its way to overheating.
Nausea is a red flag that you're experiencing heat exhaustion — but if it's accompanied by vomiting, that's a sign of heat stroke. If you suspect that you or someone you're with is at risk for a heat stroke, seek immediate medical attention.
5. A Change In Heart Rate
When your body overheats, two things can happen — your heart rate may slow down and weaken or it may do the opposite and speed up rapidly. The former tends to be a symptom of heat exhaustion while the latter is a sign of heat stroke. Either way, a change in heart rate is a sign that your body is dangerously overheating.
We often chalk up summertime dizziness as a harmless side effect of too much time in the sun — but if you feel dizzy, don't ignore it and wait for it to go away. Dizziness is a sign of heat exhaustion, which can progress to a heat stroke if it goes untreated.
7. Sweating Profusely — Or Not At All
If you notice that you're sweating profusely (or way more than you usually do), you may be experiencing heat exhaustion, so it's time to scoot inside. The more troubling symptom is when you know you're hot but you realize you've stopped sweating altogether — this is called anhidrosis and it effectively shuts down the body's ability to cool itself off. Get inside and have a cold drink as soon as you notice that something is off about your sweating patterns — but anhidrosis is seriously dangerous and you'll want to seek medical attention if your symptoms don't improve quickly.