Knowing the difference: heat exhaustion vs. heat stroke



ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR News) — With high temperatures in the forecast for Southwest and Central Virginia, it’s important to know the differences between heat exhaustion and heat strokes.

Both heat exhaustion and heat strokes are serious heat-related illnesses, but they’re different when you look at their symptoms.

Heat Exhaustion


  • Heavy sweating
  • Weakness
  • Cool, pale, clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Possible muscle cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting

First Aid:

  • Move person to a cooler environment
  • Lay person down and loosen clothing
  • Apply cool, wet cloths to as much of the body as possible
  • Fan or move victim to air-conditioned room
  • Offer sips of water
  • If person vomits more than once, seek immediate medical attention.

Heat Stroke


  • Altered mental state
  • Body temperature above 103°F
  • Hot, red, dry or moist skin
  • Rapid and strong pulse
  • Faints, loses consciousness
  • One or more of the following symptoms: throbbing headache, confusion, nausea, dizziness, shallow breathing

First Aid:

  • Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency. Call 911 or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal.
  • Move the victim to a cooler, preferably air-conditioned, environment.
  • Reduce body temperature with cool cloths or bath.
  • Use fan if heat index temperatures are below the high 90s. A fan can make you hotter at higher temperatures.
  • Do NOT give fluids if the victim is showing signs of an altered mental state; they cannot drink the fluids safely. Only give them cool water if they are responsive and able to drink. Do NOT give sugary, caffeinated, or alcoholic beverages.
  • Do NOT give aspirin or acetaminophen to reduce a high body temperature. These medicines may cause problems because of the body’s response to heatstroke.

For more information on heat strokes and heat exhaustion, as well as other heat-related illnesses click here.

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