Can you recognize the difference between heat stroke and heat exhaustion?


This chart was created to help you quickly recognize some key differences between heat stroke and heat exhaustion. As you can see some common symptoms are fatigue, nausea, headaches, confusion, and dizziness. These symptoms are often seen in extreme heat situations. Both heat exhaustion and heat stroke are very severe illnesses. Quick response times are essential to surviving either heat related illness. Hopefully this will help you fully understand the difference between the two.

Heat Exhaustion:

Heat exhaustion is a heat related illness that is often accompanied by dehydration. It can be a result of either water or salt depletion in the system in extreme temperatures. Although heat exhaustion is not as severe as heat stroke it is still important to treat immediately. Many times heat exhaustion escalates into a heat stroke. When experiencing heat exhaustion a person may complain of being really thirsty, they may be having muscle cramps, and they are sweating a lot despite their skin feeling cool. If you or someone near you is experiencing any of these symptoms, act right away. Heat exhaustion is not always life threatening but quick treatment is vital.

                The first thing to do when someone is experiencing a heat related illness is to get them out of the heat. Inside with air conditioning is preferred, but if that is not possible at least give them some shade. For heat exhaustion the key is to rehydrate. Get the person a lot of fluids. Sports drinks with electrolytes work best in these situations so both water and salt are replaced in the body. If need be, cool the body down as quickly as possible to prevent heat exhaustion from becoming heat stroke. This can be done by taking a cool shower, or applying cool towels and ice. If 15 minutes have gone by and the person hasn’t experienced any change, call for emergency help. Keep cooling the person in the meantime. If heat exhaustion goes untreated it will become heat stroke. If a person is able to recover, try to keep him/her out of the heat for the next week or so. He or she may be sensitive to the heat for a while after experiencing heat exhaustion, consult a doctor before resuming usual outdoor or exercise activities.

Heat Stroke:

                Heat stroke is the most severe form of heat illness. Heat stroke occurs when the body simply overheats itself. The core body temperature rises drastically to the point of causing organ failure and brain damage. Heat stroke is life-threatening, but survivable. Sometimes heat stroke occurs in succession after heat exhaustion, but sometimes it hits without any previous symptoms at all. During a heat stroke, a person’s body is like an oven. Their body temperature rises to over 103°F, their sweating decreases, and their skin becomes hot and dry. A person can survive a heat stroke if they are treated right away. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, do not hesitate to act.

                The very first thing you do if someone is having a heat stroke is to call for emergency help. As soon as possible move the person to a cooler area and begin cooling the body. The best treatment is to immerse the person in an ice tub. However, only let the water touch them from the neck down. DO NOT PUT A PERSON’S HEAD UNDER WATER. Cooling is the most important step in treating a heat stroke. A person’s body temperature needs to be brought down as quickly as possible in order to avoid internal organ or brain damage. Someone who suffers from a heat stroke will most likely be hospitalized for a little while. Consult with a medical professional for long term treatment.

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