What Are Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke?

Summer is here, which means it’s extremely hot and humid in Florida. In this state, the average temperature is around 82 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer. Last year, the National Weather Service issues its first heat advisory for south Florida in seven years. Many Florida cities even see several 90+ days throughout the summer and year, which can bring a lot of health problems to people, including death. Each year, around 600 people die from complications related to heat in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This means, more people die from heat-related illnesses than from any other weather event (hurricanes, floods, lightening).

Below, I wanted to discuss both heat stroke and heat exhaustion to explain the signs, symptoms and differences, and what you can do to avoid experiencing these complications from the heat. Both heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be scary, and if ignored can be fatal.

Heat Exhaustion – When the body overheats, this is heat exhaustion. It is a precursor to heat stroke. When a person has heat exhaustion, he or she will experience excessive sweating, muscle cramps, headache, dizziness, a rapid pulse, and nausea. These symptoms can gradually appear or appear suddenly, depending on how much and how often a person is exposed to the heat.

If you are experiencing heat exhaustion, it’s best to get inside to a cool place. Make sure you put on light, loose clothing, and drink plenty of water. Sitting in front of a fan and spraying mist over the exposed body is the best way to cool your body temperature if you are experiencing heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Heatstroke – Heat stroke begins at a core body/internal temperature reaches 104 degrees F. Unlike heat exhaustion, heatstroke can lead to death. When the body is this hot, a person’s heart, brain, muscles, and kidneys can become damaged, which can cause all sorts of problems.  The body’s proteins begin to break down at these temperatures. With heatstroke, a person will experience nausea, vomiting, flushed skin, rapid heartbeat and breaking, and a change in his or her behavior. Often with heatstroke, a person no longer sweats, but has become dry.

If you’re experiencing heatstroke, get medical attention immediately.

How can you prevent heat exhaustion or heat stroke? The best way is to properly hydrate. If you think you’re going to be out in the sun or heat for an extended period, drink even more water than you usually do, and bring water with you. Other ways to prevent these conditions: Wear lighter clothing and hats, use sunscreen, use an umbrella, take frequent breaks in the shade or indoors, avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol in them, and do not sit or stay in a hot car.

If you are obese or have heart disease, you are at a higher risk of developing heat exhaustion or heatstroke. Medications can impair the body’s ability to naturally cool itself as well.

If you have any concerns about these heat-related illnesses and are looking for a primary care doctor, call Dr. Kordonowy of Internal Medicine, Lipid, & Wellness to set up an appointment today. Dr. Kordonowy is a concierge and direct care primary care physician in Fort Myers. Click here or call 239-362-3005, ext. 200.

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Article By Fort Myers Concierge Doctor, Dr. Raymond Kordonowy

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