Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatments

August 25, 2022 by Alex GnatkoDr. Eric Ellis
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Have you ever experienced headaches, dizziness, or muscle cramps after being outside in the summer season? If so, you might have had heat exhaustion or heat stroke!

The good news? Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be prevented! This article will show you how and what to do if you or your loved ones experience heat exhaustion and heat stroke signs.

What are heat exhaustion and heat stroke?

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are common heat-related illnesses during the hot summer months. According to the CDC, heat exhaustion can happen with exposure to high temperatures with high humidity and occurs when our bodies lose excessive salt and water due to heavy sweating. Heat stroke occurs when heat exhaustion is not promptly treated, and our body can no longer control its temperature. It’s the most severe heat-related illness and can even be fatal.

Who’s at risk of heat exhaustion?

Anyone can experience heat exhaustion, and here’s why.

Naturally, our bodies can cool themselves during hot weather by sweating. However, there are instances when our body is less capable of cooling down properly, especially when we exercise strenuously or overwork our bodies in hot, humid weather.

As a result, we might experience heat cramps, another heat-related illness milder than heat exhaustion. When treated promptly (drinking fluids/sports drinks with electrolytes or resting in a cool area), we can prevent heat cramps from progressing to heat exhaustion.
However, some people are more at risk of heat exhaustion because their bodies cannot properly regulate their temperature naturally. These include:

  • People with obesity
  • Infants and children younger than four and adults older than 65
  • Those who take tranquilizers and antipsychotics, and medications for high blood pressure, heart problems, and allergies

Individuals working in hot environments, taking illegal drugs that increase core temperature (such as cocaine and amphetamines), or those exposed to sudden temperature changes and a high heat index of 91 degrees Fahrenheit (33 degrees Celsius) or higher, are also more at risk.

What are heat exhaustion and heat stroke signs and symptoms?

According to the CDC, the heat exhaustion signs and symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Irritability
  • Thirst
  • Heavy sweating
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Decreased urine output
  • Cold, pale, and clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Muscle cramps
  • Fainting

Meanwhile, the signs and symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Confusion, altered mental status, slurred speech
  • Loss of consciousness (passing out or coma)
  • Hot, red, dry, or damp skin or profuse sweating
  • Seizures
  • Very high body temperature (103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher)
  • Fast, strong pulse

If not treated promptly, heat stroke can become fatal.

How can I prevent heat exhaustion?

Here are several ways to prevent heat cramps and exhaustion:

  • Stay hydrated by drinking lots of fluids.
  • Wear loose-fitting and lightweight clothes during summer.
  • If you’re not used to hot weather, limit your activities in the heat until your body is well adjusted.
  • Protect yourself against sunburn by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or more.
  • Avoid leaving anyone in a parked car, even with the windows slightly open during warm or hot weather (whether or not the vehicle is under a shaded area).
  • Take extra caution if you’re at an increased risk of heat exhaustion or have a history of previous heat illness; try to avoid being in hot places, and if you notice any heat exhaustion signs, take immediate action.
  • Avoid strenuous activities such as exercises, sporting activities, or physical labor in hot weather. If this is unavoidable, try to do them during a cooler time of day.
  • Ensure there is medical aid available in case of emergency.

What are the treatments for heat exhaustion and heat stroke?

For those experiencing heat exhaustion signs, go to your nearest urgent care center for medical evaluation and treatment.

If you’re from Lincoln, CA, and Granite Bay, CA, our urgent care centers provide emergency services for treatments of heat exhaustion.

If you’re not able to go to a clinic, here are the treatments for heat exhaustion according to CDC:

  • Call 911 if medical care is not available
  • Have someone stay with you or your loved one until help arrives
  • Go to a cool area and drink lots of fluids
  • Remove unnecessary clothing, including shoes and socks
  • Use cold compresses or wash your head, face, and neck with cold water
  • Take frequent sips of cool water

If your heat exhaustion signs or symptoms worsen or do not improve within one hour, immediately contact your doctor or our urgent care centers in Lincoln, CA, or Granite Bay, CA.

If you are with someone showing heat exhaustion signs, seek immediate medical attention once they show symptoms of possible heat stroke.

In cases of heat stroke, here are the ways to treat someone showing signs and symptoms:

  • Call 911 immediately
  • Stay with them until emergency medical services arrive.
  • Take them to a shaded, cool area and remove outer clothing.
  • Cool them quickly with cold water or an ice bath (if possible), or by placing cold, wet cloths on the head, neck, armpits, and groin, or soaking a cloth with cool water.
  • Circulate the air around them to speed cooling.

As always, preventing yourself and your loved ones from being at risk of heat-related illnesses is still best, and in cases of emergency, follow the mentioned treatments for heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

If you’re from Lincoln, CA, or Granite Bay, CA, visit our urgent care centers whenever you or your loved ones experience heat exhaustion and heat stroke signs and symptoms.

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Lincoln Urgent Care and Granite Bay Urgent Care are full-service urgent care centers with onsite x-ray and laboratory testing. Our team is dedicated to providing patients with affordable and timely care for their urgent care needs.

Lincoln Urgent Care
77 Lincoln Boulevard Suite 1
Lincoln, CA 95648
Phone: (916) 258-2751
Fax: (916) 258-7172

Granite Bay Urgent Care
5290 Douglas Blvd
Suite 102
Granite Bay, CA 95746
Phone: (916) 570-7265
Fax: (916) 200-2412

For informational purposes only, a link to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Open Payments web page is provided here. The federal Physician Payments Sunshine Act requires that detailed information about payment and other payments of value worth over ten dollars ($10) from manufacturers of drugs, medical devices, and biologics to physicians and teaching hospitals be made available to the public.