Children's Hospital Colorado

The Difference Between Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke

A close-up of a boy with long brown hair and wearing a yellow soccer jersey with black stripe drinking out of a clear water bottle at the soccer field

You know heatstroke and heat exhaustion are threats to your child, but do you understand the difference?

Both heat exhaustion and heatstroke are caused by exercising or playing in a hot, humid environment where the body becomes dehydrated. However, they show different combinations of symptoms.

  • Heat exhaustion is usually accompanied by a fever no higher than 104 degrees Fahrenheit, excessive thirst, nausea, fainting, cool and clammy skin, weakness, muscle aches, heavy sweating, slow heartbeat and dizziness.
  • Heatstroke may develop following heat exhaustion if the condition is not treated. It occurs when the body’s temperature rises and the cooling system stops working. This potentially life-threatening condition is characterized by nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, fatigue, rapid heart rate, hot and dry skin, shortness of breath and decreased urination.

If your child shows signs of either of these conditions, immediately seek medical attention.

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