Heat stroke symptoms: What to watch for during Seattle's heat wave

A heat wave bringing the hottest temperatures of 2024 is expected to linger in the Pacific Northwest this week, and many living in the area are asking about the early signs of heat stroke.

Many heat-related illnesses exist, but the CDC states heat stroke is the most severe. Leaving heat stroke untreated can cause permanent disability or even death, and health officials say that some of the early signs of heat stroke could be as mild as a headache. 

Keep reading to learn about the early signs of heat stroke, heat exhaustion and what to do when you begin experiencing symptoms.

What are the early signs of heat stroke?

Heat alerts are in place for most of Western Washington Monday

Heat Advisories and Excessive Heat Warnings are in place for most of Washington State Monday. (FOX 13 Seattle)

According to the CDC, some of the early stages of heat stroke can be as simple as a headache, but if left untreated, symptoms can worsen and potentially cause permanent disability or death. Here are heat stroke signs to be aware of:

  • Headaches, throbbing headaches
  • Confusion, slurred speech, altered mental status
  • Hot, dry skin (Not sweating in severe heat)
  • Profuse sweating
  • Very high body temperature (When heat stroke happens, the body temperature can rise to 106°F or higher within 10–15 minutes)
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures

What to do if someone has heat stroke

The CDC recommends taking the following steps if you suspect someone is experiencing heat stroke:

  • Call 911 for emergency medical care.
  • Stay with the person experiencing heat stroke until medical services arrive.
  • Move the person to a shaded, cool area.
  • If you can, remove outer clothing from the person experiencing heat stroke.
  • If the clothing cannot be removed, soak their clothes in cool water.
  • Circulate the air around the person to speed up the cooling process.
  • Place cold wet cloths or ice on the head, neck, armpits and groin of the person experiencing heat stroke.

The CDC says you should NOT give the person experiencing heat stroke anything to drink. 

How to quickly cool down someone experiencing heat stroke

The CDC says someone experiencing heat stroke can be cooled down quickly by using the following methods:

  • If possible, cool the person down with cold water or an ice bath.
  • Wet the skin.
  • Place cold wet clothes on the skin.
  • Soak clothing with cool water.

What are the early signs of heat exhaustion?

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), signs of heat exhaustion may begin with symptoms as mild as a headache. Without treatment, these symptoms can progress into heat stroke, which can be fatal. Here are the early signs of heat exhaustion:

  • Headaches, throbbing headaches
  • Heavy sweating
  • Weakness or tiredness
  • Cool, pale, clammy skin
  • Fast or weak pulse
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting

The CDC says that if a person vomits from heat exhaustion, or symptoms worsen or last longer than an hour, seek immediate medical attention.

What to do if you are experiencing heat exhaustion

The NWS says that a person experiencing heat exhaustion needs to seek a cooler environment immediately. Health officials recommend moving to a well-air-conditioned room, loosening clothing, applying cool, wet cloths or sitting in a cool bath. Encourage the person experiencing heat stroke to sip water. 

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