Heat Exhaustion vs Heat Stroke

By: Oscar Fann meteorologist
By: Oscar Fann meteorologist

Aug 2 - HEAT ADVISORY through Tuesday and EXCESSIVE HEAT WARNING for coastal counties (higher heat index) through Tuesday...
(Reissuing this story due to the continuing Heat Advisories)

With the ongoing heat, this heat exhaustion / heat stroke information seems timely. There continues to be confusion about the two, which could lead to serious consequences.

Wednesday July 21, USA Today erroneously reported golfer Michelle Wie "suffered a case of heatstroke but would be back Thursday". If that had been true, she would have been near death, and NO, she would NOT have been back Thursday. It took them a few hours, but USA Today corrected it later to heat exhaustion.

HEAT EXHAUSTION (usually combined with DEHYDRATION)
The body (human or domesticated animal) is having trouble adjusting to the heat, humidity or both. Signs range from mild to approaching a serious nature.
Symptoms include (generally these are listed in order from mild to more serious):
Fatigue
Shaking / trembling hands (noticeable when lifting a cup of water)
Weakness (especially in the legs)
Muscle cramps
PROFUSE sweating (panting in an animal)
Headache
Dizziness
Nauseous
Vomiting

HEAT STROKE
is a medical emergency and is LIFE THREATENING and MUST BE TREATED BY PROPERLY TRAINED MEDICAL PERSONNEL.
Symptoms include (any of which should be considered very serious):
Confusion
Disorientation
Rapid pulse
Difficulty breathing
LACK of sweating (animal becomes listless)
HIGH body temperature (approaching 105 degrees and higher)
Seizure
Coma
Persons on various medications (e.g., blood pressure medicine, but many other prescriptions also) may be more susceptible to heat exhaustion / heat stroke.
In addition, some persons MAY NOT SHOW ANY SYMPTOMS OF HEAT EXHAUSTION BUT INSTEAD MAY GO STRAIGHT TO DISPLAYING SYMPTOMS OF HEAT STROKE.

TREATING HEAT EXHAUSTION
Go to an air conditioned area or well ventilated shady area
Slowly drink a blend of electrolyte (Gatorade) and only slightly chilled water

AVOIDING HEAT EXHAUSTION
Postpone outdoor activities in the hottest time of day if possible
If you have to be outdoors, then
AVOID alcohol or caffeineated drinks several hours before being outdoors
Sit in a shaded outdoor area 15 to 30 minutes to allow your body to try adjust to the heat and humidity
Take frequent, extended breaks with plenty of hydrating drinks
Change shirts often to avoid wearing drenched shirts that hinder your body's sweating abilities

TREATING HEAT STROKE
FIRST AND FOREMOST - COOL THE VICTIM
Get victim to a shaded area
Remove clothing
Apply / Spray cool water (as in cool water from a garden hose)
Fan victim to promote sweating and evaporation of heat away from body
Place ICE PACKS under arm pits and the groin area
Monitor body temperature and try to get it down to near 102 degrees
Call 911 as soon as possible; medical personnel will then give you additional instructions while en route
(Call 911 as soon as possible but TREATING / COOLING VICTIM is FOREMOST)

Remember - these symptoms apply to both humans and domesticated animals.


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