What’s the Difference Between Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke?
As the heat index ramps up, you may find yourself rapidly overheating with your body unable to keep up with cooling and maintaining your core temperature. If you’re exercising, moving or working in the heat, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of heatstroke and heat exhaustion and recognize if you’re in danger. When your body overheats, it might not be long before you need fast medical care. At Medco ER & Urgent Care, our board-certified physicians are capable to handling this condition very efficiently.
“Heat exhaustion—which can lead to the more serious heatstroke—is a preventable condition,” said Medco ER & Urgent Care’s Regional Medical Director, Dr. Tariq Vora. “That’s why it’s important to keep a close check on yourself during the high heat index days.”
The first stage in overheating of the human body is heat cramps, followed by heat exhaustion. This condition occurs when your body is no longer able to maintain a steady core temperature through the natural cooling process of sweating and heatevaporation. Heat cramps include muscle aches, thirst, fatigue and heavy sweating. It can be alleviated by drinking an electrolyte-balanced sports drink, or water, and resting.
Heat exhaustion follows untreated heat cramps and is a more serious condition, but is still preventable and also treatable.
Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion
- Cool, moist skin, possible goose bumps
- Heavy sweating
- Muscle cramps
- Weak, rapid pulse or dizziness when standing
Treatment for Heat Exhaustion
As with heat cramps, you will want to find a cool place to recover. Drink a sports drink or water and rest as your core temperature goes down. Do not drink alcohol. Try to cool your body with water, if possible. If your symptoms don’t improve, seek medical attention immediately.
If left untreated, heat exhaustion can quickly degrade into the most serious heat-related illness called heatstroke. Heatstroke occurs when the core temperature of the body reaches 104°. Heatstroke is a medical emergency that can cause damage to the brain, organs and muscles. Left untreated, heatstroke can lead to permanent organ damage or death
Symptoms of Heatstroke
- Change in sweating, possibly with skin becoming hot and dry
- Confusion, agitation, slurred speech
- Seizures or coma
- Nausea and vomiting
- Severe headache
- Red, flushed face and arms
- Rapid breathing
- Rapid, shallow heartbeat
Treatment for Heatstroke
Heatstroke can be treated at the ER with cooling procedures to safely bring the core body temperature down. An IV will administer the needed fluids to assist in lowering the body temperature. If you are assisting someone with a heat-related injury, have them drink water or a sports drink (not alcohol), get them to a cooler place and wet them down or place ice in a towel and apply it to head, neck, armpits and groin. Call 9-1-1 and transport them to the ER as soon as possible.
When to come to the ER with a heat injury
“Don’t hesitate to come in when you get overheated,” said Dr. Vora. “The sooner we can see you, the faster you will recover. If someone you know has symptoms of a heat injury and have become irrational or lost consciousness, call 9-1-1 immediately.”
Get help fast at Medco ER & Urgent Care
At Medco ER, we are equipped with advanced lab and treatment modalities to treat any heat-related ailment. We can check your electrolyte levels—such as sodium and potassium—and immediately treat you with Intravenous (IV) fluids while keeping you comfortable in a cool and safe environment.
We are open 24/7 to provide you with some of the best medical care available. Our Little-to-No Wait service ensures you will be shown to your own room and can be seen by a board-certified emergency medicine physician within minutes. Before long, you may be on the way to recovering from the overexposure to heat.
- Plano: 3960 Legacy Drive on the corner of Legacy and Coit Road.
Call us @ 469-392-4000.