Difference between Heat Stroke and Heat Exhaustion

September 25, 20170CPR Training

Difference between Heat Stroke and Heat Exhaustion

September 25, 2017 0

With the alarming effects of global warming today, various diseases have been prevalently reported since then. Heat illnesses are very rampant nowadays to all of the people, whether an adolescent or an adult. These diseases are related to the inability of the human body to overcome or cope the heat within the body.

Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are one of the most common heat illnesses experienced by many people regardless of their age, but mostly there are misconceptions about their differences and it is indeed important to be knowledgeable about these medical issues. American Health Care Academy aims to widen the understanding and to raise the awareness of the public concerning these alarming circumstances.


Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are part of the spectrum of the three heat-related syndromes. It compromises heat cramps as the mildest, followed by heat exhaustion which can develop into heat stroke that is already considered fatal if proper medical attention is not given for all of these illnesses. 


Heat Stroke


Heat stroke (also known as sunstroke) is medically defined as a form of hyperthermia in which the temperature within the body rapidly increases (body overheating) that can rise up to 40°C (104°F) or it can be a result of immense exposure in a high-temperature environment. It is considered as fatal especially if emergency response is not given right away and if proper treatment is not established for the patient.  

Heat stroke is often accompanied with dehydration as body temperature elevation takes place and may cause neurologic dysfunction. It is considered the most severe among the three heat-related syndromes. 

Symptoms of heat stroke include: 

  • Throbbing headache 
  • Dizziness and light-headedness 
  • Lack of sweating 
  • Red, hot, and dry skin 
  • Muscle weakness and cramps 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Rapid heartbeat 
  • Rapid, shallow breathing 
  • Confusion, disorientation, or staggering 
  • Seizures 
  • Unconsciousness 

There are two types of heat stroke: 

  • Exertional Heat Stroke (EHS) – experienced by individuals who are exposed to various strenuous physical activities in an environment with high temperature for a prolonged period of time. 
  • Non-exertional Heat Stroke (NEHS) – occurs commonly to desk-bound individuals that are mostly in elderlies, people that are recurrently experiencing illnesses, or even young individuals. 

Heat exhaustion


Heat exhaustion, unlike heat stroke, involves heavy sweating and a rapid pulse, and is a result when your body overheats. It can be caused by a prolonged exposure to hot environment involving strenuous physical activities and high humidity. Fortunately, heat exhaustion is preventable as it begins from heat cramps but can lead to heat stroke if not given with proper treatment. It is also accompanied with dehydration and can cause nausea, vomiting, and muscle weakness. 

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include: 

  • Cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in heat 
  • Heavy sweating 
  • Faintness 
  • Dizziness 
  • Fatigue 
  • Weak, rapid pulse 
  • Low blood pressure upon standing 
  • Muscle cramps 
  • Nausea 
  • Headache 

During hot weather, the human body cools itself through the process of perspiration in which the regulation of the body temperature happens through the evaporation of the sweat. But if the body is exposed to high temperature environment accompanied with strenuous physical activities, humid weather, and dehydration, the body then fails to cool itself efficiently which can lead to heat exhaustion, and even the most fatal heat stroke. 




Both heat illnesses are caused by the body overheating and prolonged exposure to environments with high temperature associated with dehydration. However, despite of the same root, heat stroke and heat exhaustion show different signs and symptoms. 

Treatment for these heat diseases includes: 

  • Staying out from the hot environment and preferably going in an air-conditioned room or to any cool environment. 
  • Drinking plenty of fluids and avoiding caffeine and alcohol. 
  • Removing tight and unnecessary clothing. 
  • Taking a shower, or bath to cool down the body temperature. 
  • Using other cooling measures like fans and ice towels. 

Have you or someone you know gone through a heat stroke or heat exhaustion? Let us know what happened and how it was treated below. Your tips may help someone else.  

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