The first sign of dangerous heat stroke can be just that—no sweat. As the temperature rises, your body’s natural cooling mechanism, sweat (or more kindly, perspiration), evaporates and helps to cool your body.
But on those hot, humid, cut-the-air-with-a knife days, evaporation is slowed and your body may not be able to keep itself cool.
Recognize these warning signs of heat exhaustion:
- Pale skin
- Fatigue, weakness
- Dizziness or nauseous
- Sweating profusely
- Rapid pulse
- Fast, shallow breathing
- Muscle weakness or cramps
“If you experience any of these symptoms, get out of the heat quickly and rest in a cool, shady place,” says Marilyn J. Heine, MD, a Bucks County emergency physician and member of the Pennsylvania Medical Society.
“Drink plenty of water or other fluids containing sugar and salt. Do not drink alcohol; that can make it worse. If you don’t feel better within 30 minutes, contact your doctor. If heat exhaustion isn’t treated, it can progress to heat stroke,” she says.
Seek treatment immediately if any of these warning signs of heat stroke are present:
- Skin that feels hot and dry, but not sweaty
- Confusion or loss of consciousness
- Throbbing headache
- Frequent vomiting
- Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
Heat stroke is much more serious than heat exhaustion—it can kill you. People with heat stroke may have seizures or go into a coma and most also have a fever.
“If you suspect heat stroke, call 911 immediately,” Dr. Heine says. “Move the victim to a cooler location, remove heavy clothing, fan the body and wet it down with a cool sponge or cloth, and encourage the individual to drink cool fluids.”
At the hospital, the patient probably will be given fluids intravenously.
See below for more on how to avoid heat stroke.
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