What's the Difference between Heatstroke and Heat Exhaustion?

heatstroke first aid toronto

At this time of the year it’s important to learn the distinguishing features of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Although many of the symptoms can be the same, heatstroke is much worse than heat exhaustion and warrants an immediate 911 call. In many cases, heat exhaustion can simply be managed at home.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion can set in over time or can start suddenly. If you have been playing or working in the heat and perspiring heavily or have become dehydrated, heat exhaustion may come into play. The main symptoms and signs of heat exhaustion include:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Moist, cool skin that may have goosebumps even in the heat
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Faintness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Rapid, weak pulse
  • Low blood pressure especially upon standing
  • Nausea

If you suspect that a person has heat exhaustion it’s important to treat the condition quickly to prevent it from turning into heatstroke. The person must be led away from the heat and into an air-conditioned space or at least into the shade. His feet and legs should be elevated while he’s lying down and any heavy or tight clothing should be removed. Offer the person a cool drink that does not contain caffeine and is non-alcoholic in nature. You can fan the person or mist him with cool water to help him cool down and his condition must be monitored carefully. If there is no sign of improvement within an hour, it’s time to seek medical attention.


Since heat exhaustion can turn into heatstroke, you may see some lingering symptoms of heat exhaustion as listed above along with one or more of the following:

  • Confusion
  • Inability to drink
  • Agitation
  • Fainting
  • Temperature of 104°F or higher

If a person is showing any of these symptoms you must call 911 immediately. This is considered to be a medical emergency since the body does not have the ability to cool down on its own. Medical personnel may surround the victim’s body with ice packs, wrap them up in a cooling blanket or use other measures to lower the temperature as quickly as possible.

Early intervention is important when it comes to both heat exhaustion and heatstroke. In order to ensure you are fully prepared to handle a situation where you see someone experiencing either heatstroke or heat exhaustion, it is important to learn more about first aid for these heat-related conditions by visiting our website today at www.heart2heartcpr.com. You can also register for any of our CPR/First aid courses that are held in the your area.

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