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Ask Dr. Nandi: Signs of heat exhaustion & heat stroke

Posted at 10:10 AM, Jul 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-09 10:10:28-04

There’s no way around it — it’s been brutally hot in and around Detroit for days now. And even on Independence Day, we’re not getting any freedom from this sticky weather. The heat index is around 100 degrees today. So it’s a very good time to talk about heat exhaustion and heat stroke because this is exactly the kind of scorching, humid weather that puts people at risk.

OK, let’s start with heat exhaustion. What is it, and what are some signs that someone is developing it?

Heat exhaustion occurs when your body’s natural cooling systems begin to wear down. People who work or play outside for long periods of time, or drink alcohol excessively in the heat, are at particular risk. You know you might be developing heat exhaustion if any of the following things happen: you begin to feel tired or fatigued…you start sweating more than normal…your skin gets clammy…or you feel dizzy. These are all warning signs, and if you experience any of them get out of the heat and drink water immediately. 

How is heat stroke different than heat exhaustion?

Heat stroke happens when you ignore the signs of heat exhaustion. At this point, your internal systems are overheating and not functioning properly. This can lead to organ failure and ultimately death...and these things can happen quickly. In fact, a number of people around the country have died this week from heat stroke. It's a serious medical emergency. 

How can someone tell if heat exhaustion is turning into a heat stroke?

There are a number of signs to watch for when it comes to heat stroke. The first is a high body temperature. Anything over 103 degrees is a problem. A severe headache is another symptom. If a person is sick to their stomach for no reason or is acting confused…or if someone isn’t sweating even when the body and skin are warm…these are all unmistakable signs of heat stroke. So be safe when you're out celebrating today, and don't overdo it. And I wish everyone a happy 4th of July!