Summertime: Heat Stroke vs. Heat Exhaustion

Summertime Heat Illnesses

Heat-related illnesses peak during the hot and humid Florida summertime months. Not knowing the signs, prevention methods, and seriousness of dangerous ailments, like heat exhaustion and heat stroke, can be life-threatening.

According to the University of Florida, there were 215 unfortunate deaths caused by environmental heat between 2010 and 2020. This number is alarming, and that’s why Air Dreamy is here to address this all-too-common illness.

In this blog, you’ll learn the difference between heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Plus, you’ll discover what may put an individual at risk, how to treat symptoms, and what you can do to prevent heat-related illnesses.

Summertime Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke Causes

When you are in a hot environment or participating in physical activity, your body produces sweat. This is an automated response to help cool your overheating body. When heat exhaustion and heat stroke occur, your body cannot produce enough sweat to reduce the temperature. Specifically, with heat stroke, the body often halts sweat production.

Many things can cause heat exhaustion and heat stroke. More commonly, extreme outdoor temperatures and strenuous activity may lead to heat exhaustion, especially when dehydrated.

Below are some of the typical causes of heat exhaustion and heat stroke:

  • High humidity
  • Dehydration
  • Wearing tight or heavy clothes
  • Consuming alcohol
  • Strenuous physical activity, like exercise and hard labor

Know the Difference 

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are the more severe phases of the spectrum of heat-related illnesses. Awareness of all stages is crucial to prevent symptoms from elevating and becoming very dangerous.

  1. Heat Rash– In extreme heat and humidity, painful rashes may appear on areas of the body that trap sweat, like behind your elbows or knees.
  2. Heat Cramps– Sweating causes your body to lose vital fluids and salts. This may cause sharp muscle pains.
  3. Heat Exhaustion– When the sweat your body produces is not enough to cool you down, heat exhaustion is possible.
  4. Heat Stroke– If the previous ailments are not treated, they can elevate to dangerous conditions, causing heat stroke. This is a potentially life-threatening illness and requires professional medical care.

The primary difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke is the necessity of medical treatment. In most cases, the symptoms of heat exhaustion can be reduced and eliminated with the help of family and friends nearby. However, professional medical treatment is necessary to ensure the safety of an individual experiencing heat stroke.

Therefore, not knowing the difference between the two can be an extreme risk.

Woman in the summertime with heat exhaustion

What Does Summertime Heat Exhaustion Look Like?

Be familiar with the signs of heat exhaustion to lessen the chances of you or a loved one experiencing more severe ailments that come with heat stroke. You can identify heat exhaustion by recognizing the following:

  • Increased body temperature
  • Heavy sweating
  • Muscle cramps
  • Headache
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Dizziness, light-headed, weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid breathing
  • Clammy, cold skin
  • Fatigue

What Does Summertime Heat Stroke Look Like?

When heat exhaustion is missed, ignored, or untreated, heat stroke can happen in a matter of minutes. Know the symptoms of heat stroke and seek medical attention as soon as you suspect it:

  • Strong and rapid heart rate
  • Body temperature above 104 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Sudden and painful headache
  • The body stops producing sweat
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness and light-headed
  • fainting
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures

What Should You Do When Experiencing a Summertime Heat-Related Illness?

If you or a loved one are suffering from either heat exhaustion or heat stroke, the very first thing to do is move to a shaded or cooler area and lie down. Remove any excess clothing, like shoes and socks. Hydrate with water or sport drinks to start replenishing the fluids your body has lost.

Next, cool the body with ice or a cold compress. If possible, take a cold shower or bath to best reduce your body’s high temperature.

If you suspect heat stroke, call 911 immediately. Medical treatment will need to happen quickly.

Woman in the summertime with heat exhaustion - man

Can Heat-Related Illnesses Occur Indoors?

Heat stroke can be exertional or non-exertional. In other words, it can occur when someone is physically active in a hot environment or when they are not participating in strenuous activity. Non-exertional heat stroke happens more often for those with pre-existing health issues, like obesity or poor circulation. It may also affect infants, young children, and older individuals with naturally weaker immune systems than typical adults.

Furthermore, non-exertional heat stroke is possible when spending a prolonged period indoors with a lack of air conditioning. For example, when your HVAC system fails, and you remain in the heated indoor space for too long, you may begin to experience heat-related illnesses. It’s easy not to realize you are in danger of heat stroke because you may not be active. Therefore you do not expect to fall ill. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

When your air conditioning system shuts down due to a faulty component or other common repairs, the indoor humidity may rise. Not having your HVAC serviced as quickly as possible may also welcome other complications, like compromised air quality.

With the heat, humidity, and stuffy environment, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are absolutely possible. It is vital you have your HVAC repaired when it no longer works, especially on hot summer days.

Are There Risk Factors for Heat Stroke and Heat Exhaustion?

To keep you and your loved ones safe from experiencing any of the dangerous heat-related illnesses, it is important to know what can make an individual more at-risk.

Dehydration

When your body sweats from extreme temperatures or strenuous activity, you need to replenish the lost fluids. You do this by drinking plenty of water or sports drinks. Furthermore, consuming alcohol or caffeine can increase your risk of heat stroke.

Age

Infants, young kids, and older adults are more at risk than the average healthy person.

Activity Level

Working or exercising in a hot outdoor or indoor location will increase your chance of experiencing a heat-related illness.

Experience

When you live in a location where the climate is typically cold, your body does not handle heat as well as those living in hot and humid environments. Likewise, if you spend much of your time in the comfort of your air conditioning, you may respond more severely to the hot outdoors or strenuous activity.

Other Health Issues

Chronic health issues may also increase your risk of heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses. They may include the following and more:

  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Mental illness
  • Poor circulation

Furthermore, temporary ailments like a fever or sunburn can heighten your chance of heat stroke.

Florida Summertime Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke image

How Can You Prevent Summertime Heat-Related Illnesses?

Heat stroke and exhaustion are avoidable, even for those with pre-existing health concerns. Use the following information to stay safe and prevent heat-related illnesses:

  • Hydrate– Especially when working, playing, or exercising in a hot environment, remember to drink plenty of water and sports drinks. Also, avoiding dehydrating beverages like alcohol and caffeine is critical.
  • Take Breaks– Remind you and your loved ones to take breaks often to allow your body to cool and reset.
  • Have a Partner– Using the buddy system is always a good idea when exerting yourself on a hot and humid day. That way, you can work together to keep one another safe and be there for a potential emergency.
  • Try Exercising Indoors– If the weather is hot and you feel you could be risking your health, choose to exercise indoors.
  • Wear the Right Clothes– Tight, heavy, and darkly colored clothing should be avoided when participating in physical activity in a hot environment.

Air Dreamy is Here to Help This Summertime

Heat-related illnesses can happen outdoors and inside of your home. Air Dreamy is here to repair your HVAC system when it fails. When your AC is giving you trouble, never hesitate to reach out to our team as soon as possible to get the issue fixed before you and your family risk your health.

We also encourage you to have your HVAC system routinely inspected to ensure it will be in working order for the hottest summer days. You’ll need to rely on your cool indoor air if you start to experience symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Air Dreamy has the experts you need to stay safe and reduce your chances of heat-related illnesses.

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