Signs and Symptoms of Heatstroke and Heat Exhaustion

Ginger K. Urban, DHSc, PA-C
Tuesday August 30, 2016
Q: WHAT IS HEATSTROKE?
Heatstroke occurs when your body can no longer cool itself and your body temperature becomes dangerously high. Heatstroke can occur if your body temperature is 104°F (40°C) or higher and is usually a result of prolonged exposure to, or physical exertion in, high temperatures.1
 
Heatstroke can result in a number of complications, depending on how long the body temperature remains high. Severe complications include organ damage to the brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles. The damage worsens the longer treatment is delayed, increasing serious complications, including death.1 Heatstroke is a medical emergency.
 
Q: WHAT IS HEAT EXHAUSTION?
Heat exhaustion is when your body becomes very hot and starts to lose water or salt.2 Heat exhaustion is often a precursor to heatstroke. If you develop signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion, take action quickly to prevent heatstroke.
 
Q: WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF HEAT EXHAUSTION?
The signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include the following:
  • Tiredness and weakness 
  • Feeling faint, dizzy, or sick
  • Muscle cramps
  • Intense thirst
  • Decrease in blood pressure
  • Urinating less often and having much darker urine than usual
If symptoms of heat exhaustion continue to worsen, you may develop heatstroke.
 
Q: WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF HEATSTROKE?
The following are signs and symptoms of heatstroke:
  • High body temperature
  • Hot, flushed skin
  • Alteration in sweating (skin may be dry when heatstroke is brought on by extreme temperatures or moist when brought on by physical exertion)
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea and vomiting Headache  
  • Rapid, weak pulse
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
Q: WHO IS AT A HIGHER RISK OF DEVELOPING HEATSTROKE? 
Although anyone can develop heatstroke, the following individuals are at higher risk:
  • Babies and young children
  • Pregnant women
  • Homeless people  
  • Elderly individuals  
  • Individuals with long-term health conditions, such as diabetes or problems with their heart or lungs
  • Individuals who are already ill and dehydrated Individuals doing strenuous exercise for long periods, such as military personnel, athletes, hikers, and manual-labor workers
  • Individuals on certain medications, including diuretics, antihistamines, beta-blockers, antipsychotics, and recreational drugs, such as amphetamines and ecstasy2
  • Individuals with a previous history of heatstroke 


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