The Most Common Signs of Heat Exhaustion & How to Prevent Heat Stroke

The Most Common Signs of Heat Exhaustion & How to Prevent Heat StrokeHeat exhaustion is non-life-threatening unless it is ignored, you continue to overheat and it turns into heat stroke. Heat stroke is the most severe type of heat injury with the potential to lead to brain damage, organ failure, and even death. Hence why heat stroke is considered a medical emergency.

At the first sign of heat exhaustion, it’s so important to relocate to a cool location. While heat exhaustion is not nearly as dangerous as heat stroke, if you remain in the heat or continue to exert yourself, it is very likely you will develop heat stroke.

How Do You Know If You Have Heat Exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion is brought on by exposure to high temperatures, and is often related to dehydration. There are two different forms of heat sickness, one is brought on by water depletion and the other is related to salt depletion.

Signs of heat exhaustion brought on by water depletion:



Overly thirsty

Passing out/fainting

Signs of heat exhaustion brought on by salt depletion:

Muscle cramps




The Most Common Signs of Heat Exhaustion




-Passing out/fainting


-Muscle cramps or abdomen cramps

-Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea

-Pale skin

-Excessive sweating

-Rapid heartbeat

-Dark-colored urine, a sign of dehydration

What Are the Symptoms of Heat Stroke?

Symptoms of heatstroke are more severe and include:

-A high body temperature at or over 104° F

-Altered mental state

-While heat exhaustion causes excess sweating, heat stroke is often associated with dry skin

-Your heart is racing, as opposed to slightly elevated

If you think you have heat stroke, call 911 or have someone take you to the emergency room right away. 

What to Do When You Experience Heart Exhaustion

The moment you start to feel sick get out of the sun or heat. Staying in the same environment will only cause symptoms to worsen. Here’s what you need to do to avoid developing heat stroke:

-Your best bet is to relocate to an air-conditioned room or vehicle. If that’s not accessible, at the very least move to a shady location that is cooler and out of direct sunlight.

-Make sure to drink plenty of water and avoid beverages that further dehydrate your body, such as caffeine or alcohol.

-Take off tight or excess clothing

-Take a cool shower or bath

-Use fans, ice towels, or other cooling measures to reduce heat.

The 15-Minute Rule

You should start to feel better or notice signs of improvement 15 minutes after you get out of the heat and follow the measures outlined above. If you do not feel better, you may require medical attention. If symptoms continue to progress, you are at risk of developing heat stroke, at which point you’ll need to go to the emergency room.

Recovering from Heat Exhaustion

There are no lasting issues associated with heat exhaustion. Albeit, it’s common for the body to be more sensitive to heat and the sun for up to a week following heat exhaustion. Ask your doctor when it is safe to return to your normal physical activities or be out in hot weather for long periods of time. Be sure to get plenty of rest and fluids during recovery.

Are You at a Greater Risk of Developing Heat Exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion is sparked by a combination of temperature and relative humidity levels, as well as their impact on your body. If relative humidity reaches over 60%, sweat evaporation is hampered and your body is not readily able to cool itself off. Your risk for heat exhaustion increases when temperatures peak over 90° F. Before you go out for the day, you should always check temperatures as well as the heat index. Keep in mind, the heat index is always higher in full sun than in the shade.

Certain factors that make you more susceptible to heat exhaustion:

-Infants and children that are under 4-years-old, and seniors over 65-years-old. Age impacts your body’s ability to adjust to heat. Young and old people adjust to heat slower than the rest of the general population.

-Certain classifications of medications, like tranquilizers, stimulants, diuretics, heart and blood pressure medication, sedatives, or psychiatric medications, can increase your risk of overheating.

-Certain chronic or underlying health conditions can make you more sensitive to heat, such as diabetes, sickle cell trait, kidney, heart, or lung disease, if you are underweight or overweight, or have high blood pressure.

How to Help Prevent Heat Exhaustion

-Dress for the weather by wearing lightweight loose-fitting clothing and a protective hat.

-Drink plenty of water before you go outside and while you’re outside to avoid dehydration. To avoid salt-depletion, consider substituting a serving of water for a drink that includes electrolytes.

-Do not drink caffeine, alcohol, or other beverages that dehydrate you before physical exertion.

-Listen to your body and take breaks whenever you feel overly hot, sick, or exhausted.

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