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The difference between heatstroke and heat exhaustion

On Behalf of | Mar 15, 2023 | Workplace Injuries

Workers in Los Angeles face new dangers from a warming climate. While they can attempt to mitigate the impacts of hot temperatures and strenuous work, this is not always possible.

An awareness of two common heat-related illnesses could help workers avoid serious injury or death.

Heat stroke

According to information from the Mayo Clinic, heatstroke occurs when the body overheats and begins to reach temperatures of 104 F. As the most serious type of heat injury, it requires emergency treatment from medical professionals. Without intervention, heatstroke can cause damage to vital organs such as the brain, heart and kidneys.

Symptoms of heatstroke include a high body temperature and an altered state of consciousness that often manifests as confusion. Several other symptoms commonly occur in the beginning and middle stages of heatstroke:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Rapid breathing
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Headache

Before emergency help arrives, cooling the person with water, placing the person in a cool area or removing warm clothing can help. However, the condition requires definitive medical care.

Heat exhaustion

This milder heat injury, typically caused by strenuous activity in the heat, responds to treatments such as stopping the activity, getting in the shade and drinking fluids. If not addressed quickly, however, heat exhaustion can rapidly turn into heatstroke. Symptoms include heavy sweating, fainting, a weak yet rapid pulse, muscle cramps and dizziness.

Certain medications could predispose a person to heat injuries. For example, some beta blockers and diuretics reduce a person’s ability to stay hydrated. Any workers with risk factors for heat injuries should exercise caution when the heat index is high.

Employees who face unsafe working conditions due to heat should understand the risks. This could help avoid serious injury.