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How to Identify Heat Stroke and Heat Exhaustion Symptoms

Health + Wellness
How to Identify Heat Stroke and Heat Exhaustion Symptoms
On average, there are more heat-related deaths in the U.S. each year than hurricane- or flood-related fatalities combined.
fotograzia / Getty Images

By Sara Peach

When your body gets too hot, you may experience a heat-related illness such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Such illnesses can be dangerous. In fact, on average, there are more heat-related deaths in the U.S. each year than hurricane- or flood-related fatalities combined.

But heat exhaustion and heat stroke are preventable. Read on for some do's and don'ts.


DO: Know the symptoms of heat stroke. According to the CDC, signs of heat stroke, also known as hyperthermia, include:

  • Body temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or more (40 degrees Celsius)
  • Fainting
  • Confusion
  • Fast and strong pulse
  • Dizziness
  • Skin that is hot to the touch. The skin may also be red, dry, or damp.
  • Upset stomach, nausea, or vomiting

DO: Call 911 immediately if someone is showing heat stroke symptoms. Heat stroke is a medical emergency. In the U.S., dial 911.

While you wait for help, the CDC recommends that you provide first-aid treatment:

  • Move the person to a cooler place out of the sun.
  • Cool the person by applying cold, wet cloths or by placing the person in a cool-water bath.

DON'T: Do not delay care, even if you are worried that the person may contract COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Hospitals are working to protect patients during the pandemic, for example by limiting visitors and separating COVID-19 patients from others.

DON'T: If a person is showing heat stroke symptoms, do not force them to drink water or other fluids.

DO: Know the symptoms of heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion is a less serious condition than heat stroke. But without treatment, it can progress to heat stroke, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. The CDC lists the following symptoms of heat exhaustion:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Cold, pale, and clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Fainting

DO: The CDC advises you to treat heat exhaustion by taking these steps:

  • Move to a cooler place out of the sun.
  • Remove or loosen your clothes.
  • Cool yourself by applying cold, wet cloths or by bathing in cool water.
  • Take sips of water.
DO: Seek immediate medical help if you experience any of these problems:
  • You vomit
  • Your symptoms worsen
  • Your symptoms do not go away within one hour

DO: To reduce the risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, watch the forecast. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are more likely to occur when the weather is hot, so monitoring the weather forecast is an important prevention step.

Keep in mind that asphalt and concrete absorb heat, so if you live in an urban area with many parking lots, buildings, and other structures, your block may be significantly warmer than other areas of your city.

High humidity is also dangerous. On hot days, you cool down as sweat evaporates from your skin. But when the air is very humid, sweat evaporates from your body only slowly, which prevents it from cooling itself effectively.

When you check the weather forecast, look for the heat index, a number that includes the effects of both temperature and humidity levels. If the heat index is 91 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, you should take steps to stay cool, according to the Mayo Clinic.

  • Make sure to drink plenty of water. Avoid caffeine.
  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Avoid exercising outdoors during the hottest times of the day.
  • If you are playing, exercising, or working outdoors, take breaks to cool down under shade.
  • If you supervise people who are playing or working in hot weather, offer them plenty of chances to take breaks and drink water.

DO: Seek shelter during heat waves. To stay healthy, your body needs a break from high heat and humidity. If you do not have air conditioning, seek shelter in air-conditioned buildings. Many communities offer cooling centers in libraries and other public spaces. But those buildings may be closed or have limited capacity because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so also consider these options:

  • Do you have friends or family members living in an air-conditioned building who would allow you to shelter with them?
  • Do you know someone who would allow you to borrow a window AC unit?
  • Is your local government offering window AC units or temporary shelter in spaces where self-isolation is possible, such as in hotel rooms?

DO: Know who is most at risk for heat-related illnesses. Anyone may fall ill as a result of overheating, but some people are at special risk:

  • Athletes
  • Outdoor workers
  • People who lack access to air conditioning
  • Children
  • People age 65 or older
  • People who take certain drugs. According to the Mayo Clinic, some drugs may reduce your body's ability to maintain its temperature or hydration levels. Such drugs include beta blockers, diuretics, antihistamines, tranquilizers, antipsychotics, and others.

DO: Understand that global warming is making heat waves more frequent. Carbon pollution from vehicles, factories, and power plants is trapping extra heat in the Earth's atmosphere, much like an overly thick blanket can trap too much heat around you at night. That extra heat is making heat waves more frequent.

In the future, scientists expect that days with high temperatures hotter than 90 degrees Fahrenheit will occur more often. That means that people and communities will need to take more care to prevent heat-related illnesses.

DON'T: Even if you live in the northern U.S., don't assume you are immune from heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

As heat waves become more common, they are occurring even in places that usually experience cool summers, such as northern parts of the U.S. In fact, heat waves in those regions can be particularly dangerous because many buildings lack air conditioning.

Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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