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Heat Exhaustion vs. Heat Stroke: What's the Difference?

Heat Exhaustion vs. Heat Stroke: What's the Difference? Can

When the weather goes from warm to hot, hospitals tend to fill up with people suffering from heat illness. While infants and senior citizens are most at risk, the heat can affect anyone.

While both are brought on by overheating, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are two separate illnesses that should be treated differently. Here is what you need to know about the differences between heat exhaustion versus heat stroke.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is typically an early warning sign of heat illness. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Light-headedness
  • Fainting

With heat exhaustion, it is critical to bring the body temperature at the first signs. Ways to cool down the body include:

  • Move to a cool area, such as an air-conditioned room
  • Take a cold shower
  • Use a cold compress or place icepacks on the groin or armpit area
  • Remove any tight clothing or extra layers
  • Consume plenty of water to rehydrate. Avoid drinks with high amounts of sugar, caffeine, or alcohol

Monitor all heat exhaustion and contact a doctor if there is vomiting, symptoms continue to worsen, or symptoms last for over an hour.

Heat Stroke

A heat stroke happens when internal body temperatures reach over 103 degrees. While heat exhaustion may be treated and monitored from home, a heat stroke needs prompt medical attention.

Some signs of a heat stroke include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Hot, dry, red, or damp skin
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Racing heartbeat

If a person has these symptoms call 911 since a heat stroke is an emergency. Immediately move them to a cooler place and try to lower their body temperature with cold compresses or a cool bath. Avoid giving them any fluids.

Keep Safe in the Heat

While similar, heat exhaustion and heat stroke have different symptoms and require different treatments. Stay in the shade, drink plenty of water, and stay inside if temperatures get too hot.

Enjoy your summer and stay cool!


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