Heat Stroke vs. Heat Exhaustion:
Signs, Symptoms and Treatment Options

Heat related illnesses have a compounding effect, and can quickly escalate from mildly uncomfortable to life-threatening.

Below are the signs and symptoms you need to keep an eye on in any situation where the temperatures rise above 85°F, as well as the treatment options for each of them.

Above all else remember two things….. Rest and Rehydrate!

If you follow these two simple rules you’ll be much more likely to remain safe, no matter what the temperature.

Heat Cramps

 Heat cramps usually affect anyone who involved in strenuous activity. Sweating depletes your body’s natural electrolyte and moisture levels. Low salt levels in muscles causes painful cramps and are one of the first signs of a heat related illnes. Heat cramps may also be a symptom of heat exhaustion.

Symptoms of Heat Cramps

  • Muscle cramps, pain, or spasms in the abdomen, arms, or legs.

First Aid for Heat Cramps

  • Drink water and have a snack and/or carbohydrate-electrolyte replacement liquid (e.g., sports drinks) every 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Avoid salt tablets.
  • Get medical help if the worker has heart problems, is on a low sodium diet, or if cramps do not subside within 1 hour.

Heat Rash

 Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather. In normal situations heat rash is a minor nuisance, but in a survival situation, any skin irritation can quickly lead to an infection.

Symptoms of Heat Rash

  • Red cluster of pimples or small blisters
  • Usually appears on the neck, upper chest, groin, under the breasts, and in elbow creases

First Aid

  • When possible, a cooler, less humid work environment is best treatment.
  • Keep rash area dry.
  • Powder may be applied to increase comfort.
  • Ointments and creams should not be used.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to an excessive loss of the water and salt, usually through excessive sweating. People most prone to heat exhaustion are those that are elderly, have high blood pressure, and those working in a hot environment, but given enough exposure ANYONE can succumb to heat exhaustion

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Irritability
  • Thirst
  • Heavy sweating
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Decreased urine output

First Aid for Heat Exhaustion

  • Take worker to a clinic or emergency room for medical evaluation and treatment.
  • If medical care is unavailable, call 911.
  • Someone should stay with worker until help arrives.
  • Remove worker from hot area and give liquids to drink.
  • Remove unnecessary clothing, including shoes and socks.
  • Cool the worker with cold compresses or have the worker wash head, face, and neck with cold water.
  • Encourage frequent sips of cool water.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature. During heat stroke, the body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. When heat stroke occurs, the body temperature can rise to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not given.

Symptoms Of Heat Stroke

  • Confusion, altered mental status, slurred speech
  • Loss of consciousness (coma)
  • Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
  • Seizures
  • Very high body temperature
  • Fatal if treatment delayed

First Aid For Heat Stroke

  •       Call 911 for emergency medical care.
  •       Stay with worker until emergency medical services arrive.
  •       Move the worker to a shaded, cool area and remove outer clothing.
  •       Cool the worker quickly with a cold water or ice bath if possible; wet the skin, place cold wet cloths on skin, or soak clothing with cool water.
  •       Circulate the air around the worker to speed cooling.
  •       Place cold wet cloths or ice on head, neck, armpits, and groin; or soak the clothing with cool water.