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We are definitely in the dog days of summer!  The heat is a serious issue for all ages. Everyone should take precautions during these extreme temperatures. You may be asking what is the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke.  According to the National Institute of Health, heat exhaustion happens when your body gets too hot. If you don’t treat heat exhaustion, it can lead to heatstroke.  Heatstroke is much more serious than heat exhaustion. It can cause shock, organ failure, or brain damage. In extreme cases, heatstroke can be fatal.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion and heatstroke

Symptoms of heat exhaustion are:

• muscle cramps

• heavy sweating

• pale or cold skin

• weakness and/or confusion

• dizziness

• headache

• nausea or vomiting

Warning signs of heatstroke include:

• fever of 104°F or higher

• flushed or red skin

• lack of sweating

• trouble breathing

• fainting

• seizures

Can heat exhaustion and heatstroke be prevented or avoided?

There are many things you can do to prevent heat-related illnesses. Babies, children, and elderly people are more sensitive to heat and require extra attention. You also are at greater risk if you are ill or obese, or have heart disease. People who work outside or in a hot setting also are at risk of heat exhaustion and heatstroke.  If you must go outside, take the following precautions.

• Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

• Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a hat or using an umbrella.

• Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.

• Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Dehydration and lack of salt contribute to heat-related illnesses. Some sports drinks can help replenish the salt in your body lost through sweating. Drink water or other fluids every 15 to 20 minutes, even if you don’t feel thirsty.

• Avoid or limit drinks that contain caffeine (such as tea, coffee, and soda) or alcohol.

• Schedule outdoor activities for cooler times of the day — before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m.

• Take frequent breaks from the heat and outdoor activities.

• Do not stay or leave a child in your car when it is hot out. Even if you open the windows, the intense heat can be extremely dangerous.

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