Heat Exhaustion vs. Heat Stroke: How to Tell the Difference
What Are Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke (Definitions)?
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are both a type of heat-related illness. Other types of heat illnesses include heat rash, heat cramps, and heat syncope (fainting).
Heat exhaustion often occurs when people work or play in a hot, humid environment and body fluids are lost through sweating, which causes the body to overheat and become dehydrated. The temperature may be elevated, but not above 104 F (40 C).
Heat stroke (also called heatstroke or sunstroke) also is a heat-related illness, and it is a life-threatening medical condition. It usually develops because of untreated heat exhaustion. The body's cooling system, which is controlled by the brain, stops working and the internal body temperature rises to the point at which brain damage or damage to other internal organs may result (temperature may reach 105 F or greater [40.5 C or greater]).
Which Condition Is Worse, Heat Exhaustion or Heat Stroke?
Heat stroke is a more dangerous health condition than heat exhaustion because a person suffering from heat stroke can die. The body’s core temperature can become so high that brain damage or damage to internal organs may happen, which can permanently damage a person's health.
Both heat-related illnesses are more dangerous when they happen in children or the elderly, or in people that have certain pre-existing health conditions.
Chart of the Differences Between Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke Symptoms and Warning Signs
Symptoms of heat exhaustion are milder than symptoms of heat stroke, which can be severe. The signs and symptoms of these heat-related illnesses may not always be apparent in children or the elderly.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/25/2017
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