Heat Exhaustion & Heat Stroke

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke may sound like similar diseases, but they are quite different. See below for a list of symptoms and what you should do if you are experiencing heat exhaustion or a heat stroke.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion occurs when your body reaches a temperature of 101°F or higher. This can make you feel weak and dizzy.

Symptoms

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Fast breathing
  • Heavy sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Mild, temporary confusion
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dehydration
  • Problems coordinating movement

Unlike heat stroke, heat exhaustion does not cause significant brain or thinking problems, such as delirium, agitation, unconsciousness, or coma.

Treatments

  • Stopping the activity and moving to a cooler area
  • Raising your legs to a level above your head
  • Taking off any extra clothing and equipment
  • Cooling you until your rectal temperature is down to 101°F (38.3°C). Oral thermometers and other ways to measure temperature are not accurate. If it is not possible to take a rectal temperature, you should be cooled until you shiver. This might include putting you in cold water, spraying you with water, or putting a fan on you.
  • Giving you water or a sports drink if you can drink, are not confused, and are not nauseated. If you are being treated at a hospital, the staff may give you intravenous fluids.
  • Monitoring your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and mental statues.

Heat Stroke

Heat Stroke is the most severe form of heat illness and is a life-threatening emergency. It is the result of long, extreme exposure to the sun.

Symptoms

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Disorientation, agitation, or confusion
  • Sluggishness or fatigue
  • Seizure
  • Hot, dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty
  • A high body temperature
  • Lost of consciousness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Hallucinations

The symptoms of a heat stroke may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

Treatments

It is important for the person to be treated immediately as heat stroke can cause permanent damage or death. There are some immediate first-aid measures you can take while waiting for help to arrive, including the following:

  • Get the person to a shaded area.
  • Remove clothing and gently apply cool water the skin followed by fanning to stimulate sweating.
  • apply ice packs to the groin and armpits.
  • Have the person lie down in a cool area with their feet slightly elevated.
  • Cool the person rapidly however you can.

Intravenous (IV) fluids are often necessary to compensate for fluid or electrolyte loss. Bed rest is generally advised and body temperature may fluctuate abnormally for weeks after heat stroke.