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Beating the Heat: Knowing the difference between heat stroke and heat exhaustion

The heat can be dangerous in Texas, an East Texas physician explains the difference between heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

TYLER, Texas — This weekend may feel like triple digit temperatures. Dr. Rebecca Peebles, a physician with UT Health East Texas, gives some tips to beat the heat and knowing the difference between heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

“So, the biggest thing is preparation, looking at the weather do you want to look at not only the temperature, but the humidity which is called the heat index and that gives you a better idea of how your body will respond to the weather,” Peebles said. “So, the higher the heat index the more stress on the body. If you’re going to be outside trying to do the more strenuous activities, whether it is exercise or work, try doing those earlier in the morning.”

Peebles says to try and avoid high heat times between noon and 4 p.m.

“It’s a highest chance for sunburns and the highest chance for heat injuries,” said Peebles. “Choosing clothing appropriately, wearing light breathable clothing can also be very helpful. Making sure that you’re staying well hydrated and taking regular breaks is really important.”

Peebles also said that from heat exhaustion to heat stroke it’s a very fine line to walk.

“Heat exhaustion or heat injury is it going to be that cool, clammy, pale skin. You may feel like your heart is racing faster and if you check a pulse, it will feel fast, but it will feel kind of weak,” said Peebles.

There may be signs of being tired, nausea or sick to the stomach and potentially a headache.

“Get out of the heat is the first step, put on clean dry clothing, step on water sip on water, you should definitely get that hydration in you could take a cool bath or shower to help bring the body temperature down,” said Peebles. “Once you start tipping into that actual heat stroke where you’re really in danger you will start seeing the skin will be hot, it will be rad, dry the pulse will still be fast but often times it will be getting stronger as the body is under more stress.”

A person may progress from just feeling a little bit sick to your stomach to persistent vomiting.

“If the temperature is over 103 degrees that is a really big indication in the diagnosis of heat stroke,” Peebles said. “Of course, if there’s any signs of confusion or loss of consciousness call me if they’ve actually passed out those are all medical emergencies medical care right away and you need to seek medical care right away.”