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Heat exhaustion vs. heat stroke | Knowing the difference

Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 7:05 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Aside from being the Emergency Management Director in Kanawha County, C.W. Sigman is also the fire coordinator. Making sure firefighters are safe is part of his job.

“One of the worst occupations for it is firefighting,” Sigman said about heat-related illnesses.

In hot weather, fighting fires can get dangerous -- not just because of flames and smoke -- but due to the extreme heat.

“And we had a fire the other night in the Tyler Mountain or Cross Lanes area and we had a lot of people, and nobody had heat stroke or heat exhaustion,” Sigman said.

Knowing how to spot heat-related illnesses can save the lives of firefighters working to save others but also anyone working in hot conditions.

Prevention means drinking water before working outside, taking breaks, and working for shorter periods of time.

Sigman said if thirst sets in, it’s already too late and heat exhaustion can lead to a heat stroke.

“Call 911 after you have got them out of the heat. Get the people out of the heat first,” Sigman said.

Heat strokes can cause brain damage or death.

“Confusion, losing consciousness, they may have hot dry skin where they are not sweating anymore and throwing up,” Sigman said. “A lot of people try to push through it. What I really want to preach is prevention. Don’t push yourself through it.”

The CDC said the people most vulnerable to heat illnesses are infants, older adults, outside workers and people with chronic illnesses or disabilities.

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