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We have all heard these terms, and just for clarification sake: Heat stroke is the END result of heat exhaustion.  It is very important in the hot, coming months to know the signs and symptoms of each of these heat illnesses, and most importantly how to prevent them.  Prevention is the key!

Heat exhaustion is caused by the depletion of both water and salt due to excessive sweating during periods of work or exercise. Athletes are particularly prone to heat exhaustion. Heat stroke is an extension of heat exhaustion, and it happens when the body’s mechanisms responsible for temperature regulation fail.Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion:

The most common signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • confusion
  • dark-colored urine (which indicates dehydration)
  • dizziness
  • fainting
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • muscle cramps
  • nausea
  • pale skin
  • profuse sweating
  • rapid heartbeat

Treatment of Heat Exhaustion

If you or anyone else has symptoms of heat exhaustion, it’s essential to immediately get out of the heat and rest, preferably in an air-conditioned environment. If you can’t get inside, try to find the nearest cool and shady place.

Other recommended strategies include:

  • Drink plenty of non-caffeinated and non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Remove any tight or unnecessary clothing.
  • Take a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath.
  • Apply other active cooling measures such as fans or ice towels.

If such measures fail to provide relief within 30 minutes, go to your nearest ER or call 911  because untreated heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke.

Signs and Symptoms of Heat Stroke

  • High body temperature: A body temperature of 104 F (40 C) or higher is the main sign of heatstroke.
  • A lack of sweating: In heatstroke brought on by hot weather, your skin will feel hot and dry to the touch. However, in heatstroke brought on by strenuous exercise, your skin may feel moist.
  • Nausea and vomiting: You may feel sick to your stomach or vomit.
  • Flushed skin: Your skin may turn red as your body temperature increases.
  • Rapid breathing: Your breathing may become rapid and shallow.
  • Racing heart rate: Your pulse may significantly increase because heat stress places a tremendous burden on your heart to help cool your body.
  • Headache:  You may experience a throbbing headache.
  • Confusion: You may have seizures, hallucinate, or have difficulty speaking or understanding what others are saying.
  • Unconsciousness: You may pass out or fall into a state of deep unconsciousness (coma).
  • Muscle cramps or weakness: Your muscles may feel tender or cramped in the early stages of heatstroke, but may later go rigid or limp.

Treatment of Heat Stroke:

Heat Stroke is a Medical Emergency!  Failing to treat heat stroke in a timely fashion, can result in death.

If you think a person may be experiencing heatstroke, seek immediate medical help. Call 911 or your local emergency services number.

Take immediate action to cool the overheated person while waiting for emergency treatment.

  • Help the person move to a shaded location and remove excess clothing.
  • Place ice packs or cold, wet towels on the person’s head, neck, armpits and groin.
  • Mist the person with water while a fan is blowing on him or her.

Heat exhaustion/stroke is strongly related to the heat index, which is a measurement of how hot you feel when the effects of relative humidity and air temperature are combined. A relative humidity of 60% or more hampers sweat evaporation, which hinders your body’s ability to cool itself.

The risk of heat-related illness dramatically increases when the heat index climbs to 90 degrees or more. So it’s important — especially during heat waves — to pay attention to the reported heat index, and also to remember that the heat index is even higher when you are standing in full sunshine.

If you live in an urban area, you may be especially prone to develop heat exhaustion during a prolonged heat wave, particularly if there are stagnant atmospheric conditions and poor air quality. In what is known as the “heat island effect,” asphalt and concrete store heat during the day and only gradually release it at night, resulting in higher nighttime temperatures.

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are not to be taken lightly.  Pay attention to your body, your children, and elderly people you may have contact with!

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