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How to Recognize and Treat Heat Exhaustion vs. Heat Stroke

Article # 8304

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body is not able to maintain normal functions because of the excessive loss of body fluids and salts. In effect, the body is trying to protect itself from a greater rise in body temperature.

Symptoms can include:
  • Heavy sweating
  • Intense thirst
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Cool, moist skin
  • Weak and rapid pulse


  • Remove victim to a shaded place or cool area
  • Have victim lie down with their feet elevated
  • Apply wet cloths and fan vigorously
  • Have the person drink water or watered-down electrolyte drinks every 15 minutes
  • Make sure victim receives medical attention
  • Recommend victim avoid strenuous activity for at least a day

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency. It is the result of the body's inability to regulate its core temperature. As the body's water and salt supplies dwindle, its temperature rises to extreme levels.

Symptoms can include:

  • Body temperature of 105° or higher
  • Red, dry, very hot skin
  • Dilated pupils
  • Strong and rapid pulse
  • Extreme disorientation
  • Unconsciousness and possibly convulsions


  • A victim of heat stroke needs immediate medical attention
  • Summon an ambulance immediately
  • Until medical attention arrives, move the person to a shaded place or cooler area
  • Loosen tight clothing
  • Cool the individual by sponging the body with cool water or wrapping in wet sheets
  • Do not give the victim anything to drink - not even water