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How to Deal With Heat Stroke and Heat Exhaustion

September 05, 2020 | Farah Jassawalla

With summers in full swing, heat stroke and heat exhaustion have become common among people. Spending too much time in the sun or doing excessive manual labor may lead to a heat stroke or exhaustion. Heat exhaustion happens when the body heats up, and the internal body temperature rises to 104 degrees. If left untreated, this leads to a heat stroke that can be fatal since it causes organ failure, brain damage, and shock. It is better to stay prepared for instances of heat exhaustion and heat stroke as temperatures rise.

Symptoms of heat stroke and heat exhaustion

Even though heat stroke and exhaustion are different, one leads to the other, and it is important to identify their symptoms to begin treatment. Dehydration is a common cause of heat exhaustion, and it produces darker urine. A person going through heat exhaustion will become confused and might feel tired and dizzy. Sweating and fast heartbeat are also symptoms of heat exhaustion, along with pale skin, feelings of nausea, muscle cramps, and signs of fainting. Heat stroke symptoms also overlap with those of heat exhaustion, but the sweating reduces drastically due to severe dehydration and increasing body temperature. The skin becomes hot, dry, and red, with the person's breathing following a shallow pattern. If not treated at the right time, it can cause death, which is why immediate action is required if someone is facing these symptoms.

Heat stroke treatment

If someone shows symptoms of a heat stroke, the first thing to do should be calling 911 after moving the person to a cool, shaded area. Without any help from paramedics, people should act quickly to try and cool down the body temperature. This can be done by removing their clothing and immersing them in a tub of cool water or fanning their body after throwing water over it. Ice packs can also be applied to the neck, back, and armpits of the patient. If someone feels the symptoms of heat exhaustion, they should move to a shaded area and drink more liquids. A heat exhaustion fever is possible for a little time, but this is uncommon. Taking a cold shower and using fans also helps. Once recovered from heat exhaustion, the body may be more sensitive to higher temperatures than before for some time.

How long does heat stroke last?

A person suffering from a heat stroke needs to be hospitalized immediately, and it is normal for them to stay there for at least two days. Tests and checkups are conducted to identify any problems triggered by the heat stroke. After a heat stroke, the body and organs need to recover fully, and this can take anywhere between 2 months to a year. On the other hand, heat exhaustion tends to last for a shorter amount of time, which varies between 30 to 60 minutes. However, if the patient's condition seems to be unstable after taking all the necessary steps, an ambulance should be called.

Prevention of heat stroke and heat exhaustion

Since heat waves are highly likely during the summers, people need to take certain measures to prevent heat stroke or exhaustion. People should stay hydrated and drink copious amounts of water throughout the day. If the temperature is rising outside, it is better to stay inside in a cool area. Clothing should be light and breathable so that air can reach the skin. Physical labor should be avoided during peak heat hours, but if it is mandatory, workers should wear helmets and light clothes. Caffeine and alcohol consumption should be limited since they cause dehydration in the body. Heat-related illnesses are quite common during a heat wave and rising temperatures.   

Heat stroke risk factors

Heat stroke is more common in aged adults who remain trapped inside their house or apartment where there is a lack of windows and barely any fresh air. After that, people who do not drink enough water or suffer from some chronic illness face a high risk of getting heat stroke. The heat index calculates how cold or hot the body feels. If humidity is high, there are greater chances of getting a heat stroke since the body does not sweat, and transpiration, which cools down the skin, cannot occur. Diabetic patients are at a higher risk of facing heat-related illnesses because they make regular trips to the hospital.


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