Common Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke

Almost every year, we publish a Weekly Safety Meeting on heat-related illnesses. This year, our safety calendar was filled with other subjects, so we’ll give you a quick bonus Meeting here.

Here are the most common symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke:

Heat exhaustion:
   Cool, moist skin
   Heavy sweating
   Weak, rapid pulse
   Muscle cramps

Heat stroke:
   High body temperature
   Hot and dry or sweaty skin, depending on the situation
   Flushed skin
   Confusion, agitation, slurred speech, delirium, seizures
   Nausea and vomiting
   Rapid breathing
   Racing heart rate

When you’re dealing with heat illnesses, the difference between fact and fiction can be the difference between life and death. Remind your people about these facts and fictions:

Fact or fiction? Heat stroke is not a real emergency. It can be treated with rest and ice water.
FICTION. If you suspect heatstroke, call 911. Take the victim to a cool location and try to get their body temperature down while you’re waiting for the ambulance. You can put ice packs on the victim’s groin, neck, back, and armpits. If you’re able to cool them down, you may save their life.

Fact or fiction? Heat stroke victims don’t sweat, so if the victim is sweaty, it’s not an emergency.
FICTION. While it’s true that heat-stroke victims often stop sweating, they may sweat profusely if the heat stroke was brought about by heavy exertion.

Fact or fiction? If you have cardiovascular disease or diabetes, you have a higher risk for developing heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
FACT. People who live with cardiovascular disease and diabetes are more likely to experience heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Other circumstances—like drug and alcohol use, obesity, or pregnancy, for instance—can also change the way your body copes in the heat. 

When you have to work in the heat, stay hydrated and take frequent short breaks in a cool place.