Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are heat-related illnesses. Heat exhaustion typically occurs when people play or work in a hot and humid environment such that body fluids are excessively lost via sweating. In effect, this causes dehydration and overheating. On the other hand, heat stroke, which is also known as sunstroke or heatstroke, is more dangerous and a life-threatening condition. It typically develops due to untreated heat exhaustion. The body’s cooling mechanism, which the brain controls, stops working properly. In this article, we will compare heat stroke vs heat exhaustion.

First, what you need to know is that heat stroke requires immediate medical attention. You have to call 911 since it is a medical emergency. So what is the difference between heat stroke vs heat exhaustion? This article highlights a stroke vs heat exhaustion comparison and presents vital information on how to prevent them.


What Is Heat Exhaustion? 

man sweating

Heat exhaustion is a condition that occurs when you work or play when it is very hot and humid. Your body loses a lot of water through sweating. The body overheats and becomes dehydrated. In heat exhaustion, the temperature of the body is very high but does not exceed 104 F. Medical treatment may be necessary so that the condition doesn’t advance to heat stroke. However, the condition usually gets better when you cool down, but needs to be treated immediately if it becomes heat stroke.

Therefore, heat exhaustion is the precursor of heatstroke and is associated with the body overheating and dehydration. Mayo Clinic articulates that heat exhaustion is identified when a person has heavy sweating, rapid pulse, cool and moist skin along with goose bumps when in the heat, fatigue, headache, muscle cramps, and nausea. The symptoms usually develop over time but sometimes, they may develop suddenly, especially if you have been exercising.


Signs And Symptoms

  • A headache
  • Low blood pressure upon standing
  • Feeling sick and a loss of appetite
  • Excessive sweating
  • Intense thirst
  • Nausea
  • A pale and clammy skin
  • Confusion and dizziness
  • Cramps in the legs, arms, and stomach
  • Cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat
  • Fast breathing or Pulse
  • A body temperature of 100 F or above
  • Faintness

        Headache                           

headache

Low Blood pressure upon standing

blood pressure

Feeling sick and a loss of appetite

Feeling sick and a loss of appetite

Low Blood pressure upon standing

Low Blood pressure upon standing

Intense thirst

Intense thirst

Nausea

Nausea and vomiting

A pale and clammy skin

A pale and clammy skin

Confusion and dizziness

Confusion and dizziness

Cramps in the legs, arms, and stomach

Cramps in the legs, arms, and stomach

Cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat

Cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat

Fast breathing or Pulse

Fast breathing or Pulse

A body temperature of 100 F or above

A body temperature of 100 F or above

Faintness

Faintness

These symptoms are often similar among children and adults.


What Is Heat Stroke? 

over sweating

Heat stroke is caused by over sweating and is a result of heat exhaustion that has not been treated. It occurs due to prolonged exposure to or physical exertion in high temperatures. The body temperature rises above 104 F. The condition is common during summer and requires immediate treatment. If left untreated, it has the potential of damaging your muscles, kidneys, heart, and brain. The damage worsens the longer treatment is delayed, which increases the risk of even more advanced complications, and can lead to death. The body’s cooling mechanism, which the brain controls, stops working and the internal temperature rises significantly to a point where body organs can be damaged.


Signs And Symptoms

The following are the signs and symptoms of heatstroke:

  • Altered mental state or behavior—agitation, irritability, confusion, seizures, delirium, slurred speech, coma, and seizures.
  • Flushed skin—the skin turns red as the body temperature rises
  • Throbbing headaches
  • Racing heart rate the heat stress tremendously burdens the heart as it tries to cool down the body
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • A high body temperature that may rise to 104 F or higher obtained with a rectal thermometer
  • Rapid and shallow breathing
  • Alteration in sweating—your skin will feel hot and dry to touch but may feel dry and slightly moist

Causes And Risk Factors

a man expose to a hot environtment

Even though there are differences when you compare heat stroke vs heat exhaustion, similar causes can be identified. Both are because of exposure to a hot environment. The hot temperature leads to a rise in core body temperature. The environment is typically hot and humid for prolonged periods of time. Both are common among older adults and people with chronic illness. Strenuous activities,  such as exercising or working in hot weather, can also contribute to heat-related illness.

Other causes include wearing excess clothing that prevents sweat, which cools your body, from evaporating easily. Drinking alcohol may also cause it as this affects the body’s ability to regulate body temperature. Dehydration also causes heatstroke when you don’t take enough water to replenish lost fluids via sweating.

The following are the risk factors:

  • Age: you are more susceptible to heat stroke and heat exhaustion if you are you are very young or when you are over 65 since the central nervous system is either yet to be fully developed or is deteriorating.
  • A lack of air conditioning: fans will make people feel better and cool down easily.
  • Sudden exposure to hot weather: this is especially during early summer or when travel to geographical locations with a hotter climate.
  • Exertion in hot weather: taking part in sports, as well as military training, can make you more susceptible to heat-related illness.
  • Certain health conditions—these include chronic illnesses like a lung and heart disease, which might increase your risk of developing the heat-related 
  • Illness
  • Obesity and leading a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Certain medications, which may affect your body’s capability of staying hydrated, such as beta blockers, diuretics, and vasoconstrictors.

Complications

Heatstroke can lead to several complications, but this depends on how long the body temperature is high. However, the most severe complications are vital organ damage and death. Vital organ damage results if the victim does not receive immediate medical attention to lower the body temperature. The brain or any other organs could swell and could potentially result in permanent damage. Death can also occur without an adequate and prompt treatment.


Heat Stroke VS Heat Exhaustion | What's The Difference? 

skin tone are hot and dry
skin tone  pale, cool, and clammy

Our heat stroke vs heat exhaustion comparison reveals that heat stroke is worse. Heat stroke is heat exhaustion that has not been remedied or treated. Heat stroke is a more dangerous condition than heat exhaustion as an individual suffering from a heat stroke can die. This is because the body’s core temperature becomes so high that it results in organ failure. This permanently damages the individual's health and can result in death. However, both conditions are dangerous when they happen to children or the elderly.

The following are notable differences when heat stroke vs heat exhaustion are compared:

  • Skin in heat stroke vs heat exhaustion—heat exhaustion causes the skin to be pale, cool, and clammy, but stroke causes it to be flushed, hot, and dry
  • Sweating in heat stroke vs heat exhaustion—In heat exhaustion, the person sweats profusely but in heatstroke, he or she may not sweat due to dehydration
  • Core Body Temperature in heat stroke vs heat exhaustion—in exhaustion, the temperature rises above 100 F but doesn’t exceed 104 F, but in heatstroke, it rises above 105 F
  • Heat stroke vs heat exhaustion—heat exhaustion causes dizziness and lightheadedness but a heatstroke may cause coma, confusion, fainting, rapid breathing, and high or low blood pressure

Preventing Heat Stroke And Heat Exhaustion

To prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke, you need to:

drinking water under the sun
  • Protect against sunburn—this is because sunburn affects your body's ability to cool. We recommend applying sunscreen whose SPF is at least 15
  • Wear lightweight and loose-fitting clothing—it allows your body to cool off properly
  • Never leave anyone inside a parked car—this is the common cause of heat-related illness among kids since the temperature inside the car can rise 20 degrees F more in just 10 minutes
  • Drink plenty of fluids—you should stay hydrated, which helps your body sweat and maintain a normal body temperature
  • Get acclimated—you should limit the time spent doing exercise or working in heat until you are conditioned to it. It may take a few weeks to adjust to hot weather
  • Take it easy or have a break during the hottest parts of the day—if you cannot avoid strenuous activity in hot weather, drink fluids frequently. If exercising, you can reschedule to cooler parts of the day, such as in the morning or evening
  • Take precautions when taking beta blockers, diuretics, and vasoconstrictors by drinking a lot of water

Conclusion

Both heatstroke and heat exhaustion are heat-related illnesses. However, heat stroke is a more dangerous condition than heat exhaustion as an individual suffering from a heat stroke can die. This is typically attributed to the fact that the body’s core temperature becomes so high that it results in brain damage. This permanently damages the individual’s health and can result in death.

Heat exhaustion causes the skin to be pale, cool, and clammy, but heatstroke causes it to be flushed, hot, and dry. Exhaustion causes the person to sweat profusely, but in heatstroke, he or she may not sweat due to dehydration. While in heat exhaustion, the body temperature rises above 100 F but not above 104 F, it rises to 105 or more in heat stroke. To prevent heatstroke and heat exhaustion, you should protect yourself against sunburn, wear loose clothing, drink plenty of fluids, get acclimated, take it easy or have a break during the hottest parts of the day, and take precautions when taking medications, such as diuretics. We hope this article has adequately addressed a heat stroke vs heat exhaustion comparison and how to prevent them.