The following article has been re-posted from St. John’s Ambulance, Ontario
Sun Awareness Week
Since 1989, the Canadian Dermatology Association’s annual initiative has been to educate Canadians about the dangers of excessive sun exposure. With the majority of summer activities taking place under the harmful rays of the sun, learning about prevention and first aid for sunburn and heatstroke is as important as ever.
Most people have experienced a radiation burn in the form of a sunburn, where the sun is the source of radiant energy.
First aid for sunburn
Sunburns can range in severity from those that are mildly uncomfortable to those that are serious, cover a large portion of the body, and are complicated by heatstroke. For minor sunburn, give first aid as follows:
- Do a scene survey and a primary survey. Get out of the sun. Gently sponge the area with cool water or cover with a wet towel, to relieve the pain. Repeat this step as needed to relieve pain.
- Pat the skin dry and put on a medicated sunburn ointment or lotion (these can cause an allergic reaction in some people). Apply the lotion according to directions on the package.
- Protect burned areas from further exposure to the sun.
- Don’t break any blisters- doing so may promote infection. If large areas of the skin begin to blister, get medical help.
- If the casualty begins to vomit, or develops a fever, give first aid for heatstroke and get medical help.
Heatstroke is a life-threatening condition where the body’s temperature rises far above normal. It is caused by prolonged exposure in a hot, humid and perhaps poorly ventilated environment. In classic heatstroke, the body’s temperature control mechanism fails, sweating stops and the body temperature rises rapidly. In exertional heatstroke, the body temperature rises rapidly due to heavy physical exertion in high temperatures, even though sweating continues. Elderly people and those in poor health are more likely to suffer from heatstroke. Without immediate first aid heatstroke can result in permanent brain damage or death.
Signs and symptoms of heatstroke
- Body temperature rapidly rises to 40°C or higher- the casualty is hot to the touch
- The pulse is rapid and full but gets weaker in later stages
- Breathing is noisy
- Skin is flushed, hot and dry in classic heatstroke, and flushed, hot and sweaty in exertional heatstroke
- Casualty is restless and may complain of headache, fatigue, dizziness and nausea
- Vomiting, convulsions, unconsciousness
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