Heat stroke vs. heat exhaustion: Know the difference and how to avoid both

Doctor offers tips on how to stay safe in excessive heat

Doctor offers tips on how to stay safe in excessive heat


CHICAGO (CBS) – With temperatures rising to dangerous levels, your body may experience signs of illness from excessive heat exposure.

But how can you tell whether someone is undergoing heat exhaustion or a heat stroke?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who undergo heat exhaustion will experience symptoms including dizziness, excessive thirst, heavy sweating, nausea, and headaches. This can potentially lead to heat stroke.

Signs of heat stroke include dizziness and headache. Still, a person will also suffer from confusion, skin being hot to the touch, and becoming unconscious – causing death or permanent disability if not treated immediately.

The risk for both is high on Wednesday and Thursday.

Dr. Javier Guevara of Northwestern Medicine said everyone is at risk, especially children and people over 65.

“Also, people who usually overexert themselves with regular exercise, or their chronically ill – heart disease, diabetics – are at the highest risk for heat stroke or heat-related illnesses,” he said.

Dr. Guevara added he’s expecting more patient visits to the emergency room due to the heat.

“We’re definitely keeping our staff alarmed from even the front triage to make sure that people are coming in appropriately triage brought back quickly into cooling temperatures,” he said.

Anyone who is experiencing heat exhaustion is advised to get inside a cool or air-conditioned area and to stay hydrated by drinking cold water or non-alcoholic beverages with electrolytes. People who exhibit signs of heat stroke are advised to seek medical help immediately. 

“Stay hydrated, don’t wait to be thirsty, to drink cold water. Stay indoors; today is not the day to be outside and pace yourself,” Dr. Guevara said.  

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