Heat Stroke and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: Can You Spot the Difference?

Summer in Utah is the best time to indulge in your favorite activities. One of the top favorites is boating.

warning sign

Boating also provides the chance for swimming. With the extreme heat experienced this summer, anyone would take the chance to cool down, feel the breeze against their faces and enjoy a good laugh with their close friends.

Sometimes boating can result in an unexpected event or tragedy. Just recently, Deseret News reported that 22-year- old Lucas Allyn died during a boating outing with friends. The report listed the cause of death as carbon monoxide poisoning. Allyn went boating with friends at Bear Lake on board an old boat with no outboard engine. Friends disclosed that Allyn was seated at the end of the boat near the exhaust. He also spent significant time near the exhaust pipe as he pulled swimmers and skiers out of the water.

Allyn’s friends thought that he was suffering from heat stroke after a day of boating. They called 911 around 7:15 p.m., and he was pronounced dead by 8:32 p.m. An autopsy conducted by the Utah State Medical Examiner’s Office revealed the cause of death as carbon monoxide poisoning.

So what are the similarities and differences between heat stroke and carbon monoxide poisoning? Here are some points that will help you spot the difference.

Heat Stroke Signs and Symptoms

According to WebMD, the hallmark symptom of heat stroke is a core body temperature above 105 degrees Fahrenheit. But fainting may be the first sign.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness and light-headedness
  • Lack of sweating despite the heat
  • Red, hot, and dry skin
  • Muscle weakness or cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation, or staggering
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness

First Aid for Heat Stroke

Calling 911 or transporting the person to a hospital is the best plan of action if you suspect that someone has heat stroke. Any delay seeking medical help can be fatal.

While waiting for the paramedics to arrive, initiate first aid. Move the person to an air-conditioned environment — or at least a cool, shady area — and remove any unnecessary clothing.

If possible, take the person’s core body temperature and initiate first aid to cool it to 101 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit. If no thermometers are available, don’t hesitate to initiate first aid.

You may also try these cooling strategies suggested by WebMD:

  • Fan air over the patient while wetting his or her skin with water from a sponge or garden hose.
  • Apply ice packs to the patient’s armpits, groin, neck, and back. Because these areas are rich with blood vessels close to the skin, cooling them may reduce body temperature.
  • Immerse the patient in a shower or tub of cool water, or an ice bath.
  • If emergency response is delayed, call the hospital emergency room for additional instructions.

After you’ve recovered from heat stroke, you’ll probably be more sensitive to high temperatures during the following week. So it’s best to avoid hot weather and heavy exercise until your doctor tells you that it’s safe to resume your normal activities.

CO Poisoning Signs and Symptoms

According to Medline Plus, carbon monoxide (CO) is a gas that has no odor or color. It is a very dangerous gas because it can cause sudden illness and death. CO is found in combustion fumes, such as those made by cars and trucks, lanterns, stoves, gas ranges and heating systems. CO from these fumes can build up in places that don’t have a good flow of fresh air. You can be poisoned by breathing them in. CO poisoning mimics many other common illnesses, and often many people do not realize they’re in trouble until there’s a serious problem. Not all symptoms will be present and different people will experience them differently. The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion

First Aid for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

WebMD recommends immediate removal of the victim from the place where carbon monoxide is present. Treatment in the hospital for CO poisoning is oxygen therapy, because the goal of treatment is removal of CO from the hemoglobin in the patient’s blood.

Indeed, it is difficult to spot the difference between heat stroke and carbon monoxide poisoning. Take extra precautions this summer and be aware of your surroundings. Help your family and friends to stay safe by making sure everyone is not over-exposing to the heat of the sun or to exhaust of the boat and other probable sources of carbon monoxide.

Christensen & Hymas specializes in personal injury law. If you have been injured due to the negligence of another, please call our office at (801) 506-0800 for a free consultation.

Photo courtesy of Nemo.

Ken Christensen
Partner, Founder at Christensen & Hymas
Ken Christensen is the founding partner of Christensen & Hymas. He is an avid cyclist, loves baseball, and enjoys spending time with his family in the outdoors.

2 Comments

  1. Spencer

    I work in a kitchen and i operate the ovens (taking pizza out of it) is it my managers job to make sure i am ok if i feel these symptoms because i cant tell if i had heat stroke or co poisioning from the ovens

    Reply
    • Russ Hymas

      There are certain duties that employers have to their employees under the law, and taking reasonable efforts to ensure employees’ safety is certainly one of those. Whether an employer has violated any duties to its employees is a question for an employment attorney (or, if someone has been injured on the job, for a worker’s compensation attorney). Those are not areas in which we practice, but we would be happy to direct you to attorneys that do specialize in those areas.

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest