Heat Stroke or Heat Exhaustion? How to Tell and What To Do

| How-To

The summer months bring the highest temperatures that Indiana residents see all year. Whether for work or play, we’re spending more time in the heat—which means we’re more at risk for heat-related illnesses.

Though preventable, these illnesses can affect anyone from children to older adults. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 618 people in the United States die from extreme heat every year.

Extreme heat conditions include significantly high temperatures, or a combination of heat and humidity that cause the air to be oppressive. Your body normally cools itself down by sweating, but extreme heat can increase your body’s temperature too quickly for your body to keep up.

The result? Heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Each has distinct symptoms to look for and actions that you can take. Learn how to tell the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and what you should do if either one happens to you or someone nearby.

If you or anyone else might be in danger of a heat stroke, call 911 now. If you suspect heat exhaustion, contact or visit the Schneck Emergency Department at:
411 West Tipton St.,
Seymour, IN 47274

Patients can enter the Emergency Department by parking in the lot along Brown Street and entering the Emergency Exit.

Heat Exhaustion

If you notice:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Cold, pale, and clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Fainting (passing out)

You should:

  • Move to a cool place
  • Loosen the individual’s clothes
  • Put cool, wet cloths on the individual’s body or take a cool bath
  • Sip water

And get medical help right away if you notice:

  • Throwing up
  • Worsening symptoms
  • Symptoms last longer than 1 hour

Heat Stroke

If you notice:

  • High body temperature (103°F or higher)
  • Hot, red, dry, or damp skin
  • Fast, strong pulse
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Losing consciousness (passing out)

You should:

  • Call 911 right away. Heat stroke is a medical emergency
  • Move the person to a cooler place
  • Help lower the person’s temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath
  • Do not give the person anything to drink

It’s Good to Be Cautious

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, even if you’re not sure whether someone is experiencing a heat-related illness. Knowing the symptoms and what to do prepares you for emergencies and could save someone’s life.

About the Author

Matthew C. Wilson DO, MBA

Dr. Matthew Wilson is a physician with Schneck Primary Care.