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HealthInfo Canterbury

Heat & sun injuries

two young women at the beach, wearing hats and sunglassesWhile we love the warm summer sun, spending too long in it is dangerous.

If you spend a long time in a hot environment you can get heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Heat exhaustion is when you become very hot and your body starts to lose water or salt, making you overheat. Heatstroke is when your body can no longer cool itself and your temperature becomes dangerously high. You need to see a doctor as soon as possible if you think you have heatstroke.

To avoid heat exhaustion and heat stroke, avoid spending too long in a hot environment – stay out of the sun and in the shade. Drink plenty of cold drinks, and if you do get hot, have a cool bath or shower. Avoid alcohol as it will dehydrate you.

Sunburn

The best approach to sunburn is to avoid it.

However, if you have spent too long in the sun there are some things you can do to relieve the pain. You should stay out of the sun until the pain and skin redness go away.

You can take paracetamol to relieve pain. This is especially helpful if you take it as soon as the pain starts but it is less helpful after 24 hours. You still need to be careful going in the sun afterwards. Also make sure you drink lots of non-alcoholic fluid to avoid becoming dehydrated.

Several products are advertised to relieve the pain of mild sunburn. These include cool compresses, aloe-based lotions, and unfragranced moisturisers. We don't have proof that these products help, but they are also not likely to hurt. They don't reduce the long-term risks of sunburn, like getting skin cancer.

You can find more information on sunburn on DermNet NZ.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed October 2017.

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Page reference: 53718

Review key: HISUN-53718