Heat exhaustion vs. heat stroke: What’s the difference?

Weather Stories

It’s a summer combo we’re all used to-heat and humidity. 

Another term we hear this time of year? Heat index. 

But what exactly is the heat index? And why should you pay attention to the numbers?

The heat index is the apparent temperature, or the “feels like temperature” to your body. It’s a combination of the air temperature and the humidity.

To understand what impact humidity has on the body, first, you have to understand how the body keeps cool. Our bodies cool down by perspiring. The evaporation of sweat helps cool us down and regulate our temperature. 

If our sweat can’t evaporate, then our bodies can’t regulate our temperature. When the humidity is high, less sweat evaporation occurs. That means your body has a harder time cooling itself down, and it’s why you feel warmer when it’s more humid outside. 

When looking at a heat index chart, it will show the temperature, relative humidity, and the feels like temperature. But remember that the chart is for places in the shade. If you’re out in direct sun, the heat index values can increase by up to 15 degrees! 

When we talk about high heat indices, make sure you take note and limit time outside, stay hydrated and wear sunscreen. It’s also crucial to know the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke. 

Heat exhaustion symptoms can include feeling faint or dizzy, excessive sweating, cool or clammy skin, a rapid but weak pulse, and muscle cramps. If you have any of these symptoms, get to a cool, air condition location, drink water or even take a cool shower or use a cold compress. 

Heat stroke symptoms include a throbbing headache, no sweating, a body temperature above 103, a rapid and strong pulse and even the loss of consciousness. If anyone has these symptoms, call 911 and quickly act to cool the person down until help arrives. 

Keep these fast facts in the back of your mind, so you and your family can have a safe summer of fun in the sun.

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