Heat Stroke vs. Heat Exhaustion: Know the difference between these two-related illnesses could save your life or that of a loved one in times of emergencies.
If you experience severe symptoms in addition to heat intolerance, seek medical attention right away. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can quickly develop into heat stroke, which can be fatal.
Heat Stroke Vs. Heat Exhaustion
As the weather gets warmer in the land down under, many Australians tend to spend more time outdoors under the sun. Exposure to abnormal or prolonged amounts of heat and humidity without relief has consequences.
The blistering heat and the record-high temperatures can significantly increase the risk of heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. But what is the difference between these two?
Here, we explain the difference between heat stroke vs. heat exhaustion.
What Is A Heat Stroke?
Heat stroke is one of the most serious heat-related illnesses that occur when the body is unable to control its core temperature. This results in the body temperature rising rapidly and the body mechanism failing, eventually leading to the body’s inability to cool down.
The body temperature can quickly rise to 106°F or higher in a heat stroke emergency within 10 to 15 minutes.
Warning signs of heat stroke may include:
- Extremely high body temperature
- Lack of sweating despite the heat
- Red, hot, dry skin
- Rapid, strong pulse
- Throbbing headache
- Sudden confusion
What Is Heat Exhaustion?
Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to an excessive loss of water and salt through, usually after exposure to a hot environment.
It is one of the three heat-related illnesses, with heat cramps being the mildest and heatstroke the most severe.
Common symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Extreme thirst
- Heavy sweating
- Elevated body temperature
- A decrease in the urine output
Risk Factors For Heat Stroke And Heat Exhaustion
Though anyone can develop a heat-related illness, certain factors increase your risk of heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
The following risk factors may include:
- Age – Infants and children below four years old and adults 65 years and older are at increased risk for heat illness. It is because your ability to regulate your body temperature is more difficult at this age range.
- Prescription medications – Certain medications to treat a medical condition, such as high blood pressure or heart disease, can reduce the body’s ability to stay hydrated. Dehydration is one of the biggest causes of heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
- Obesity. The fact it the body tends to retain more heat when you weigh more. It can also be more difficult to cool body temperature down under these conditions.
- Sudden temperature change. Rapidly moving from a cooler place to a warmer climate may result in the body being unable to adjust to warmer weather conditions.
- High heat index. The heat index (apparent temperature) combines air temperature and relative humidity to determine how hot it feels to you and your body. Sweat evaporates less easily in high humidity, making it harder to cool the temperature down. If the heat index reaches 91°F (32.8°C), focus on doing the preventative methods.
Heat Stroke And Heat Exhaustion Treatment
Take these steps immediately if you suspect someone is experiencing heat-related illnesses:
- Move the person out of the heat and place them in a shady or air-conditioned room to cool down.
- Lay the person flat on the floor, with their legs and feet elevated slightly.
- Remove any tight or heavy clothing.
- Have the person sip chilled water or electrolyte drinks to regulate heart rate and maintain a healthy body temperature
- Cool the person by spraying or sponging them with cool water.
- Monitor their condition carefully.
Seek medical help if:
- Symptoms do not improve after 30 minutes of initial treatment
- The person goes into shock, has a seizure, or loses consciousness
- The person has an abnormal breathing pattern or not breathing (perform CPR, if needed)
A history of heat stroke and heat exhaustion makes you sensitive to warm temperatures, which can last for about a week.
It is important to let the body rest and recover and avoid doing any strenuous activities. It is best to consult a doctor when is the right time to return to your normal activities.
7 Tips For Preventing Heat-Related Illness
One of the main ways to prevent heat stroke and heat exhaustion is to keep the body temperature in a normal range. This is particularly important when doing activities or spending time outside in the heat or sun.
Here are seven prevention tips to prevent heat-related illnesses.
- Stay hydrated. The body needs more water than usual when working in a hot environment because more fluids are lost through excessive sweating. To prevent dehydration, drink two to four cups of water every hour or drink electrolyte drinks.
- Avoid alcohol or caffeinated beverages. Alcohol and caffeine intake only increases your risk of dehydration, especially when doing strenuous activities.
- Try to do more activities in a temperature-controlled or air-conditioned environment.
- Wear light-colored, loose, lightweight clothing when doing activities outdoors. Use a wide-brimmed hat to keep your face away from the sun, which will help you stay cooler.
- Take cooler baths and showers to help cool the body temperature.
- Take frequent breaks when doing strenuous activities like hiking, exercising, or playing sports.
- Never leave children, infants, and adults in a closed, parked car. The temperature inside a closed car tends to become very hot, which can lead to heat-related illnesses.
Get First Aid Training
If you are unsure how to differentiate between heat stroke and heat exhaustion, consider learning first aid to know the signs and symptoms of these heat-related illnesses and how to treat them quickly.
Effective first aid actions could help save your life or the life of someone you love in an emergency.
Sign up for a first aid course and stay up to date on various lifesaving techniques, safety tips, and expertise on managing health.
Visit the First Aid Courses Darwin for more information.