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Feeling the heat? Be sure you know the difference between heat exhaustion vs. heat stroke

Posted in Blog, News  
Thursday, August 11, 2022

We’ve reached the time of year where the days are usually the hottest and most unbearable ones of the season. The dog days of summer, named for Sirius “the dog star” being so bright during this time, hit in August and with high temperatures comes high risk for a variety of heat-related illnesses and issues. Your friends at NTB have some life-saving tips to recognize the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

First, issues with heat hit close to home because many of the risk factors are often associated with professional truck drivers:

  • People who are overweight
  • People who work outdoors
  • People with chronic conditions like heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and mental illness
  • People who take certain medications like diuretics or antihistamines

That means truck drivers need to pay close attention to how they feel in the heat to avoid illness or even death. This can be a little tricky since many of the symptoms are the same or similar. So, how can you tell the difference between dehydration and something more dangerous?


When you’re overexposed to the sun or heat and not drinking enough water, your body loses moisture and essential body salts, such as sodium and potassium. Dehydration can lead to heat cramps, a mild form of heat-related illness that causes painful stomach cramps and muscle spasms as your body attempts to make do without the electrolytes it would get from fluids.

The most common symptoms of dehydration and heat cramps are:

  • Thirst
  • Less-frequent urination
  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue
  • Light-headedness
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

But when is dehydration the symptom of a more serious illness? Here’s how to tell.

Heat exhaustion vs. Heat stroke

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body overheats because it has lost the ability to cool itself down. Sweat is your body’s natural way to cool you down, but if you’re dehydrated or working too hard, your body’s natural response may not be able to keep up.

Heat stroke occurs when your body temperature rises to 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. It’s the most serious form of heat illness and unlike heat exhaustion, heat stroke requires immediate medical attention.

Here’s a quick way to compare the two:

Heat exhaustion

Heat stroke – a medical emergency


  • Headache
  • Dizzy or fainting
  • Heavy sweating
  • Cold, pale and clammy skin
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Weakness or muscle cramps
  • Excessive thirst

What to do

  • Hydrate with water or sports drinks. No alcohol.
  • Move to a cooler, air-conditioned place.
  • Lie down.
  • If fully conscious, sip water.
  • Take a cool shower or use cold compresses.
  • If vomiting continues, seek medical attention.
  • Act quickly. Untreated heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke.
  • Remove tight fitting clothing or extra layers


  • Headache
  • Confusion or delirium
  • May lose consciousness
  • No sweating/dry skin
  • Hot, red skin
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Body temperature above 104° F

What to do

  • Call 911. This is a medical emergency.
  • Move the person to a cooler place.
  • Use cold compresses to reduce body temperature.
  • Do not give fluids.


Note that a symptom of heat exhaustion is heavy sweating while a person having a heat stroke is not sweating. Another difference with heat exhaustion is clammy (damp) skin but heat stroke presents as dry, hot skin.

At the first sign of trouble, it’s important to act quickly to either cool your body or get help in going for medical intervention. If left untreated, heat stroke can cause damage to your brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. The damage worsens the longer treatment is delayed so be alert for the symptoms noted above!

Preventing heat-related illness

  • Hydrate all day long! Avoid fluids with caffeine or alcohol. Instead, drink water, fruit, vegetable juices, or sports drinks with electrolytes.
  • Wear lightweight, loose and light-colored clothing.
  • Use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above and wear a hat. Sunburn can increase your risk of heat illness.
  • Take frequent breaks from the heat to cool yourself down and rehydrate.

Stay healthy & safe out there

Since 1974, NTB has been looking out for the safety and health of our drivers by getting to know them personally and operating safely at all times. We help grow strong careers, too, by providing consistent freight lanes, competitive pay and guaranteed home time. Our new competitive pay package makes it possible for our drivers to earn over $95,000 per year. If you’re looking to make a change to a carrier that looks out for you, connect with NTB today!