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Understanding Heat-Related Illness -- Symptoms

What Are the Symptoms of Heat-Related Illnesses?

Heat cramp symptoms include:

  • Severe, sometimes disabling, cramps that typically begin suddenly in the hands, calves, or feet
  • Hard, tense muscles

Heat exhaustion symptoms include:

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  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Excessive thirst
  • Muscle aches and cramps
  • Weakness
  • Confusion or anxiety
  • Drenching sweats, often accompanied by cold, clammy skin
  • Slowed or weakened heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Agitation

Heat exhaustion requires immediate attention but is not usually life-threatening.

Heat stroke symptoms include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Fatigue
  • Hot, flushed, dry skin
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Decreased sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Decreased urination
  • Blood in urine or stool
  • Increased body temperature (104 degrees to 106 degrees F)
  • Confusion, delirium, or loss of consciousness
  • Convulsions

Heat stroke can occur suddenly, without any symptoms of heat exhaustion. If a person is experiencing symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, GET MEDICAL CARE IMMEDIATELY. Any delay could be fatal. Seek emergency medical care for anyone who has been in the heat and who has the following symptoms:

  • Confusion, anxiety, or loss of consciousness
  • Very rapid or dramatically slowed heartbeat
  • Rapid rise in body temperature that reaches 104 degrees to 106 degrees F
  • Either drenching sweats accompanied by cold, clammy skin (which may indicate heat exhaustion) or a marked decrease in sweating accompanied by hot, flushed, dry skin (which may indicate heat stroke)
  • Convulsions
  • Any other heat-related symptom that is not alleviated by moving to a shady or air-conditioned area and administering fluids and salts 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on April 02, 2013

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