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The Difference Between Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke

heat exhaustion

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. Both of these conditions should be treated as emergencies. Here's how to recognize when a person is afflicted with heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

How to Recognize and Treat Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion can affect anyone when the weather is hot, indoors or outdoors. Symptoms can begin after prolonged exposure to high temperatures without balancing the loss of electrolytes with adequate fluid intake. Weakness and confusion will follow. Sufferers of heat exhaustion will sweat more heavily than normal, and may have cool and clammy skin.

It's imperative to get the person to a cooler location; preferably an air-conditioned room. Call for medical assistance right away and give water or sports beverages to replace the salt that's been lost. Only allow the person to sip small amounts of liquid at regular intervals of 10 minutes. Remove as much clothing as possible and wrap the limbs with towels that have been drenched with cool water. The victim might complain of a throbbing headache but under no circumstances should pain medications be given.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke and How to Treat the Condition

A dangerously high body temperature of 104°F or 40°C is the main sign of heat stroke. Visible neurological indicators are seizures, difficulty understanding what others are saying, and hallucinations. Sufferers of heat stroke will produce little or no sweat, and the skin will turn bright red because the body tries to dilate blood vessels to try to release heat. What's happening is that the body is turning into an oven. Other symptoms are a rapid pulse, confusion, and unusually aggressive behavior.

It's vital to call emergency medical services immediately because heat stroke can be fatal. Before they arrive, take steps to cool the victim down. Move the person out of direct sunlight to a shady area. If possible, spray the victim with cool water from a hose. Placing ice packs behind the head, under the arms, and on the sides of the chest will help to bring the person's core temperature down. Do not give caffeinated beverages like tea or coffee and never leave the victim unattended.

How to Prevent Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke

Heat exhaustion is the early stage of heat stroke. To reduce the likelihood of getting one and possibly both of these conditions, stay hydrated, wear loose clothing that reflects sunlight and take frequent breaks if you must work outside on hot days. Bring another person along in case an emergency does occur. At the first sign of heat exhaustion, all activities must be stopped, fluids must be replenished and the affected person should relax.

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