Heat stroke vs heat exhaustion: What's the difference and what are the symptoms?

WPVI logo
Heat stroke vs heat exhaustion: What are the symptoms?
AccuWeather has the details you need to know about heat stroke, a serious health condition, and heat exhaustion, which can precede it.

It's important to keep an eye on yourself and loved ones for signs of heat stroke.

The CDC estimates about 600 heat-related deaths per year, but the EPA said this might be an undercount, some estimates put the total at more than 1,300 deaths per year. That makes extreme heat more deadly than all other weather events combined, AccuWeather reports.

Heat stroke is the most severe heat-related illness.

Before someone has a heat stroke, they get overheated and experience heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion is more common during and after long periods of exercise. Symptoms include heavy sweating, dizziness, fatigue and cool, moist skin with goosebumps.

If you see the symptoms of heat exhaustion, get out of the heat and cool off immediately before it can escalate to a heat stroke. Mist your body with water, treat hot areas with ice packs and drink plenty of water.

If a person's body temperature rises above 104 degrees Fahrenheit, the result is a heat stroke. When a person has a heat stroke, they are no longer sweating, but their skin is flushed. Other symptoms of a heat stroke include an altered mental state, a racing heart rate and vomiting.

If someone experiences heat stroke, seek emergency treatment. Without it, the brain, heart, kidneys and muscles can be damaged, and it can even lead to death.

Recognize the signs of heat related illness

Heat rash is skin irritation caused by excessive sweating when it's hot out. If you develop heat rash, keep the rash area dry and use powder to help with comfort. Do not use ointments or creams.

Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness and is a response to an excessive loss of water and salt, usually due to excessive sweating, according to the CDC. The elderly, people with high blood pressure and people working in a hot environment are more prone to heat exhaustion.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include headache, nausea, dizziness, irritability, weakness, thirst, heavy sweating, decreased urine output and elevated body temperature.

To treat heat exhaustion, get out of the hot area, remove unnecessary clothing including shoes and socks, use cold water on the head, face and neck or cold compresses in the same areas to start lowering body temperature, and take frequent sips of cool water. People suffering from heat exhaustion may need to be taken to an emergency room or urgent care center for further treatment.

Heat stroke the most serious heat-related illness, according to the CDC, and occurs when the body can no longer control its own temperature. Body temperature rises rapidly, the sweating response fails and the body becomes unable to cool down. As a result, your internal temperature can climb to 106 degrees or higher within 10 to 15 minutes.

Heat stroke can cause permanent disability or death if emergency treatment is not provided.

Symptoms of heat stroke include confusion, altered mental state, slurred speech, loss of consciousness or coma, hot, dry skin or profuse sweating, seizures, and very high body temperature. It can be fatal if treatment is delayed.

If someone is experiencing heat stroke, call 911 immediately and stay with that person until EMTs arrive. Move the person to a shaded, cool area and remove outer clothing. Also take steps to cool the person down with a cold water or ice bath if possible. You can also play cold, wet cloth on any exposed skin, soak their clothing with cool water and generally keep them wet with cool water. Use fans to circulate air around the person to speed cooling, and place cold wet clothes or ice on the head, neck, armpits or groin to help lower body temperature.


Rip currents: Safety tips and what to know

What barbecue favorites are putting your health at risk?

Lotion in the refrigerator and more hacks to keep cool without AC

Tips to stay safe during the hot summer months

Natural remedies for sunburn

Water bottle warning: Can you start a fire if you leave bottled water in your car?