Heat dangers: the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke

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Heat stroke
Heat Exhaustion vs Heat Stroke

Here in Southwest Florida, we are no stranger to heat and humidity. However, there are times of the year where our heat is above average — and that’s exactly what we are seeing this week.

While children and elderly people are the most susceptible to heat-related illnesses, anyone can be affected by heat exhaustion or heat stroke. There are few similarities between the two, but many key differences that tell the difference between “we need to cool you off” and “we need to get you to a hospital”.

Many heat-related illnesses CAN be avoided. Prevention is key: taking plenty of breaks, drinking plenty of water, finding shade or spending time in the air conditioning. However, here are some distinguishing characteristics to keep in mind.

According to the CDC, for heatstroke, which is a medical emergency, look for:
-A body temperature of 103° or higher
-Hot, red, dry or damp skin
-A fast, strong pulse
-Losing consciousness

If there’s a possibility you or a loved one is suffering from heatstroke, you should call 911 immediately. Move the person to a cooler place and try to lower their body temperature with cool compresses or a cool bath. Here’s an important reminder too with heat stroke: do not give the person anything to drink.

According to the CDC, for heat exhaustion, look for:
-Excessive sweating
-Cold, pale, and clammy skin
-A fast, weak pulse
-Nausea or vomiting
-Muscle cramps
-Tiredness or weakness

If you or a loved one is suffering from heat exhaustion, get them to a cooler place and try to loosen their clothes. Put cool, wet cloths all over the person’s body and get them into a cool bath. It’s also a good idea to sip water. However, here’s an important reminder: seek medical treatment if the person begins to throw up, symptoms get worse, or the symptoms last longer than an hour.

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