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Heat Emergencies: When to Go to the ER

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Beach volleyball, barbecues and bathing suits are just a few of the images that might come to mind as the end of the school year nears and we start firming up our summer plans. While we want you and your family to have fun in the sun this season, it’s important to know the signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke, and the differences between the two.

If you or someone you care about does experience a heat-related emergency, it’s vital to know when you should go to the ER so you can get there as quickly as possible if need be. We’re here to help, so read on to find out more.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses excessive amounts of water and salt, typically from sweating. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Clammy skin
  • Decreased urine output
  • Dehydration
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Extreme thirst
  • Fainting
  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Weakness


Heatstroke is a serious medical emergency that occurs when your body is unable to control its internal temperature. Call 911 and get to your closest emergency room as soon as possible if you or someone with you experiences the following symptoms:

  • Altered behavior such as slurred speech or staggering
  • Agitation, confusion, irritability, disorientation or delirium
  • Body temperature of 104°F or higher
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Dry skin rather than sweaty
  • Flushed or red skin
  • Muscle weakness or cramps
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rapid breathing and heartbeat
  • Seizures or coma
  • Throbbing headache

Without treatment, complications from heat exhaustion can lead to permanent organ damage or death, depending on how long the patient was exposed to a hot temperature. Get the person to the ER right away, doing your best to keep them cool.

Stay Cool

Staying properly hydrated and wearing light, cool clothes when engaging in outdoor summer activities are keys to staying safe. Avoid overexerting yourself in the hot sun and keep water close by at all times. Seek out shade whenever you need to.

We hope you stay cool and enjoy all that summertime has to offer. Know that we’re here when you need us most at our conveniently located emergency rooms, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Learn more about our emergency care near you.

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