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Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke: Know the Difference and How to Treat

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Extreme heat kills more than 600 people in the U.S. each year (source, CDC).  Heat related illnesses have distinct physiological signatures, and knowing the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke is vital; even potentially lifesaving.  Both are caused by prolonged exposure to extreme heat, and without treatment heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke.  Heat stroke kills but shutting down vital body systems, including:  brain and nervous system, circulation, lungs, liver, kidneys digestive tract and muscles.  If you see a person with heat exhaustion symptoms (as illustrated in the attached image),

  • move patient to a cooler place
  • loosen clothes
  • place cool, wet cloths on the body or immerse in cool water
  • get them to sip water

A person with heat stroke symptoms is in dire condition:

  • call 911 immediately
  • move patient to cooler place or place in cool bath
  • give them nothing to drink

Quick and proper action may save a life.

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