Do You Know? Heat Exhaustion vs. Heat Stroke

7806841130_8da3e93992_nDo you know the signs and how to tell if someone is experiencing heat exhaustion or heat stroke?

Tri-Cities has a well earned reputation for being dry and HOT in the summertime. After all, we do live in the desert, but we know how to rock that heat- give a forecast of triple digit temps and Tri-Citians start dreaming about water parks, playing in the river, boat rides, and all the entertaining ways to stay cool.

There are some things you need to remember, however, as you head outdoors for summer fun. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are very real concerns, and in more serious heat stroke cases, it can even lead to brain damage or death.

Heat exhaustion results from two different types of dehydration: either not enough water, or not enough salt.

 Water dehydration will cause weakness, headache, fainting (loss of consciousness), and make you really thirsty.

Salt dehydration means that your body is lacking in electrolytes. This type of heat exhaustion causes nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, and dizziness.

Along with these symptoms, someone experiencing heat exhaustion will often be confused, sweat profusely, complain of headaches, and have an elevated heart rate.

If you suspect someone is experiencing heat exhaustion- please take the situation seriously! Get them inside into an air conditioned room, give lots of water or electrolytes (avoid caffeine and alcohol which will dehydrate the person even more), and try to help the person cool off as quickly as possible.

Why is it so important to get heat exhaustion under control? Because unchecked heat exhaustion can easily turn into heat stroke!

Heat stroke is when a person’s internal body temperature raises higher than 104 degrees. That’s over 5 degrees higher than the average temperature, but those few degrees make a world of difference. Heat stroke can lead to brain damage, organ failure, and even cause death.  Heat stroke is caused by prolonged exposure to hot temperatures coupled with dehydration- these two work together to essentially shut down your body’s cooling system. Have you ever tried to drive a car that has a hole punched in the radiator(that thing you put coolant into)? The motor would overheat and you’ll end up with thousands of dollars in repair costs for a busted engine. Our bodies work in a similar (though much more complicated) way.

How can you tell if someone is experiencing heat stroke? Look for a lack of sweating coupled with hot and dry skin (severe dehydration), nausea and vomiting, rapid and shallow breathing, muscle cramps, dizziness, unconsciousness, confusion/disorientation, rapid heartbeat, throbbing headache, or seizures. IF YOU SEE SOMEONE IN THIS CONDITION- CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY!

While waiting for help to arrive, do everything you can to try and lower the person’s temperature: cool baths, ice packs to the armpits/neck/back, and getting them out of the sun. If the person is conscious try pushing water or electrolytes. Do not try to move someone experiencing a seizure.

So as you head out on your summer adventures, remember: drink lots of water, rest in a cool place when you start to feel hot, and keep an eye out for heat related problems. Enjoy that sunshine and stay safe!

We wish you good health,

~Columbia Basin Racquet Club
Photo Credit: “temperature”, © 2012 jean pierre gallot, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio


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