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Stroke and Heat Stroke: Big Difference

The two are not the same, experts say

(HealthDay is the new name for HealthScoutNews.)

SUNDAY, Aug. 17, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- The symptoms of heat stroke -- dizziness, nausea, fatigue -- as well as the very name itself could lead you to believe the most extreme form of heat illness is a form of stroke.

However, that's not the case at all. Although both a neurological stroke and heat stroke can, if untreated, cause permanent damage and even be fatal, the two are unrelated.

Heat stroke is the third and most serious stage of heat illness, and occurs when excessive exposure to heat causes the body's sweating mechanism to fail, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Without that mechanism, the body can no longer cool down, and body temperature can soar to 106 degrees or higher.

With heat stroke, a person will show no signs of sweating, have a rapid pulse, and red, hot, dry skin. Dizziness, nausea and a severe headache may be experienced. Medical assistance should be sought immediately and the person should be cooled down with such items as wet towels or sponges.

A neurological stroke can occur anytime, and while there is debate over its relation to sudden temperature changes, it has not been linked to overheating.

Symptoms of stroke can include dizziness, but can also include sudden confusion, imbalance, trouble speaking or seeing, or numbness. Strokes result either from a blockage of blood supply to the brain (ischemic stroke), or a burst blood vessel in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke).

There is strong evidence that permanent damage to the brain cells can be prevented if a person experiencing a stroke receives prompt medical care. So if symptoms occur, it's critical that help is sought immediately.

More information

Read more about stroke at the American Stroke Association. And the National Weather Service offers more information on heat safety.

SOURCES: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
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