These Signs of Heat Stroke Can Easily Be Mistaken for Something Else

In the hottest part of summer, certain parts of the country can easily see temperatures soar above 100 degrees. And the longer you remain in the heat, the easier it is for you to get heat stroke. Heat stroke occurs when the body gets so hot that it can’t regulate its own temperature anymore. It typically occurs on very hot days. But it’s not always easy to tell when the condition is heat stroke — or another medical problem. Here are some symptoms of heat stroke that can easily be confused with something else.

Young woman with heatstroke on a beach

Some signs of heat stroke can be easily confused with something else. | iStock.com/Halfpoint

You have a bad headache

A headache can be one of the first symptoms of many, many health problems. And heat stroke is one of them. A headache can frequently signal dehydration. Dehydration coupled with exposure to high temperatures is the main cause of heat stroke. But people can also get stress headaches or even get a headache when they feel hungry, so it’s easy to be outside on a hot day and confuse the headache with something else. Simply taking some ibuprofen might make the pain go away, but it won’t fix the problem and can put you in an even more dangerous situation.

You’re nauseous

Nausea from heat stroke is also caused by dehydration. When your body loses water through sweat, it can lead to things like muscle cramps, weakness, and nausea. It can also lead to vomiting. But nausea isn’t something people typically associate with dehydration. You might think you ate something bad or came down with a stomach bug even though your body is actually in desperate need of cooler temperatures and water.

You have a rapid heartbeat

A rapid heartbeat, also known as tachycardia, can occur with heat stroke. But a common cause for tachycardia is high blood pressure, so if it’s something you struggle with, it’s easy to assume it has something to do with that. But actually, it can mean that your heart is failing due to heat stroke. The heartbeat can be faint or prominent, but if you’re out in excessive heat, it’s a sign you could be doing serious damage to your body.

You feel faint

There are plenty of reasons you might feel faint. Low blood sugar is a common reason, but dizziness or fainting is also extremely common with dehydration. Passing out is a clear sign that you’re suffering from heat exhaustion. And it might seem obvious if you feel faint while you’re out in 100-degree weather, but heat exhaustion or heat stroke can occur once you’re out of the heat, too, if you don’t rehydrate your body with water. If you feel faint or dizzy, lying down might temporarily make you feel better, but if you’ve been out in the heat all day, you should seek medical attention immediately.

You’re not sweating

This is a sign that most people miss. Normally, when you’re not sweating, it means your body is cool. (Sweating is your body’s natural mechanism of cooling itself off.) So when you’re not sweating, your body isn’t overheated. However, with heat stroke, your body has lost its ability to control your internal temperature, and you’re so dehydrated that you no longer sweat. It’s the least obvious sign, but it means you could be in serious danger. If you plan on going out in the heat, always hydrate and bring water with you. Also, exercise in the morning or evening when temperatures are lower.

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