Identifying Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke

heat stroke and exhaustion

During a heatwave it is important to know what the warning signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke are, and what should be done if someone has signs of either.

While both heat exhaustion and heat stroke are serious conditions, one is more severe than the other.

High temperatures

Hot weather tends to mean people spend more time outside, enjoying the sunshine, having picnics and sunbathing in a park or at the beach. As well as the well-publicised risk of sunburn, during high temperatures there is also the risk of heat-related health conditions.

The most serious of these conditions are heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Rise in body temperature

Heat exhaustion is when a person is unable to cool themselves down, and so their body temperature continues to rise. 

Signs that someone has heat exhaustion include excessive sweating, cold, clammy skin, a loss of appetite or feeling sick, and dizziness and confusion. Someone with heat exhaustion may faint, or may get cramp in their arms or legs.

Cool, shady place

Heat exhaustion usually gets better once the person is able to cool down. They should be taken to a cool, shady place, given water or a rehydration drink, and have their clothing loosened. A cold, wet sponge applied to the skin can also help.

If these steps are taken, the person should start to be able to cool down and feel better. 

Confusion, nausea

Heat exhaustion can turn into heat stroke, which is a serious condition that requires immediate medical help.

A person with heat stroke may stop sweating and may have hot, dry skin. They may feel confused, not able to walk, feel sick and have a rapid heart rate. Their body temperature will rise to 40°C or above.

In severe cases the person may have a fit, find it difficult to breathe or lose consciousness.

Urgent treatment

If heat stroke is suspected, emergency medical help should be called, as the person needs urgent treatment. While waiting, the person should be moved to a cool, shady area, put in a bath of cold water or have ice packs put on their body. 

Preventing heat conditions

It is important to take steps to prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke. During hot weather, drink plenty of cold water, wear loose, light-coloured clothing, keep out of the sun between 11am and 3pm, avoid excessive exercise and avoid excess alcohol.


This article was written by a third party source and does not reflect the views or opinions of Ramsay Health Care unless explicitly stated.

Additional comments on the page from individual Consultants do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of other Consultants or Ramsay Health Care.

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