What’s the Difference between Heat Stroke and Heat Exhaustion?

When temperatures rise, it’s important to understand how to protect your health.

If you know the symptoms of heat-related illness, you can catch a problem before it turns critical. Here is an explanation of two of summer’s biggest culprits.

What is heat stroke?
Heat stroke is defined as a breakdown of vital processes when the body’s internal temperature rises too high. This constitutes a medical emergency and requires a call to 911. Organs can fail, and brain damage or even death can result. Fainting is usually the first red light that heat stroke is occurring. Other symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • A lack of sweat
  • Reddened, flushed skin
  • Severe headache
  • Seizure
  • Loss of consciousness

What is heat exhaustion?
Heat exhaustion is also caused by a rise in the body’s temperature and is often the precursor to heat stroke. Its hallmarks are dehydration and a loss of electrolytes or important minerals such as sodium. It’s symptoms include:

  • Thirst
  • Weakness
  • Tiredness
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Nausea, possibly vomiting

How are the two different?
Although the two illnesses share some symptoms, they vary by degree. Both require that the patient find shelter from the heat as well as loosen or remove clothing so that the body temperature can seek a normal level.

Most important is one key difference: A heat exhaustion patient needs to consume fluids immediately, while a heat stroke patient should be given no fluids until emergency medical staff assess the situation.

What can I do to avoid illnesses brought on by heat?
There are many simple preventative measures you can take. Drink ample amounts of water, wear appropriate clothing and take breaks from the heat to stay safe.

When anticipating time spent in the heat, prepare¬†thoroughly so you and your loved ones won’t experience discomfort or illness. If you suspect an emergency caused by heat, call 911 immediately and visit Denton Regional Medical Center’s Emergency Care Center for expert treatment. If you would ever like to request a physician referral for a checkup, please call¬†1-855-477-DRMC (3762).

Related Posts:
Do I Need To Go To Urgent Care?
When It’s Time To Go To the E.R.

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