Heat-related illness are preventable

According to the Centers for Disease Control, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Nearly five million people are treated for skin cancer in the U.S. each year. Just a few serious sunburns can increase your risk of skin cancer later in life. Fortunately, most skin cancers can be prevented by following these tips:

  • Stay in the shade, especially during midday hours.
  • Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.
  • Wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Use sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or higher that provides both UVA and UVB protection.
  • Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours and after swimming, sweating or toweling off.
  • Avoid indoor tanning.

As temperatures rise, it's also important to take precautions to prevent heat-related illness:

  • Limit any strenuous activity and exercise, especially during the sun's peak hours from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • If you must exercise or work outdoors during extreme heat, take frequent breaks and drink lots of water to avoid dehydration.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and sugary drinks. These cause you to lose more body fluid.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing to reflect heat and sunlight.
  • NEVER leave anyone - a person or animal - in a closed, parked vehicle.  Temperatures inside a closed vehicle can quickly exceed 140º F, which is life-threatening.
  • Check on elderly neighbors to make sure they are safe.
  • Bring pets inside and be sure to provide them with plenty of water.
  • Stay indoors, ideally in an air-conditioned place.
  • Take a cool shower or bath.
  • If your house or apartment isn't air-conditioned, spend a few hours at a shopping mall, public library, movie theater or supermarket.  A few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat.

Heat-related illness and deaths are preventable if you take the appropriate steps. It's important to recognize the symptoms and understand how to prevent them.

  • Heat Cramps: Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms due to heavy exertion. They usually involve the abdominal muscles or the legs. It is generally thought that the loss of water and salt from heavy sweating causes the cramps.
  • Heat Exhaustion: Heat exhaustion is less dangerous than heat stroke. It typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a warm, humid place where body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. Fluid loss causes blood flow to decrease in the vital organs, resulting in a form of shock. With heat exhaustion, sweat does not evaporate as it should, possibly because of high humidity or too many layers of clothing. As a result, the body is not cooled properly. Signals include cool, moist, pale, flushed or red skin; heavy sweating; headache; nausea or vomiting; dizziness; and exhaustion. Body temperature will be near normal.
  • Heat Stroke: Also known as sunstroke, heat stroke is life-threatening. The victim's temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. The body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly. Signals include hot, red and dry skin; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid, shallow breathing. Body temperature can be very high--sometimes as high as 105F.

General Care for Heat Emergencies:

  • Cool the Body
  • Give Fluids
  • Minimize Shock

For heat cramps or heat exhaustion: Get the person to a cooler place and have him or her rest in a comfortable position. If the person is fully awake and alert, give a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes. Do not let him or her drink too quickly. Do not give liquids with alcohol or caffeine in them, as they can make conditions worse. Remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet cloths such as towels or wet sheets. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number if the person refuses water, vomits or loses consciousness.

For heat stroke: Heat stroke is a life-threatening situation! Help is needed fast. Call 9-1-1 or your local EMS number. Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the body. Wrap wet sheets around the body and fan it. If you have ice packs or cold packs, wrap them in a cloth and place them on each of the victim's wrists and ankles, in the armpits and on the neck to cool the large blood vessels. (Do not use rubbing alcohol because it closes the skin's pores and prevents heat loss.) Watch for signals of breathing problems and make sure the airway is clear. Keep the person lying down.

Ozone Levels

Elevated heat and humidity can also lead to unhealthy ozone levels. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation forecasts daily ozone conditions on its Web site for the New York Metropolitan area, which includes Westchester County. Air quality updates are also provided daily on the New York State Air Quality Hotline at (800) 535-1345.

Stay Cool Locations
Please check with your local municipality to find out if they are opening temporary cooling centers on hot days.

If you need a free place to cool off, try your local library, senior center, or shopping mall. Bookstores and coffee shops are also places where you can relax and often enjoy free wi-fi. Call ahead to make sure that it’s open when you want to go. You can also cool off at your local movie theater.

Sun Safety Resources