Your best defense against heat-related illness is prevention. Staying cool and making simple changes in your fluid intake (non-alcoholic, uncaffeinated beverages), avoiding strenous activities, and clothing during hot weather can help you remain safe and healthy.
Stay Cool Locations (Cooling Centers)
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 you can relax and enjoy free wi-fi. Call ahead to make sure that it’s open when you want to go. For movie theaters near you, try Regal Cinemas, AMC Loews, City Center 15, Cinema De Lux Ridge Hill, Jacob Burns Film Center, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Bow Tie Cinema, Greenburgh Multiplex Cinemas , AMC Loews, National Amusements, Showcase Cinema, Cross County Multiplex Cinemas, Pelham Picture House.
Heat stroke is a serious and life-threatening condition that claims many lives nationwide each year. Symptoms include hot, red, dry skin; shallow breathing; a rapid, weak pulse; and confusion. Anyone suffering from heat stroke needs to receive emergency medical treatment immediately. Call 911 if you suspect heat stroke and immediately cool the overheated person while waiting for emergency help to arrive.
“Heat stroke and dehydration can take you by surprise,” said Sherlita Amler, MD, Westchester County commissioner of health. “The elderly, young children and those with high blood pressure, heart disease, or lung conditions need to be especially careful to avoid heat-related illnesses. High humidity and some medications can also increase a person’s risk for heat stroke.”
While less dangerous than heat stroke, heat exhaustion also poses concerns. Seniors, children up to age four, people who are overweight or who have high blood pressure and those who work in hot environments are most at risk. Signs include headache, nausea or vomiting, dizziness and exhaustion, as well as cool, moist, pale or flushed skin. People suffering from heat exhaustion should be moved out of the sun and have cool, wet cloths applied to their skin.
Health Department recommendations to prevent heat-related illnesses:
- Drink two to four glasses of water per hour during extreme heat, even if you aren’t thirsty.
- Limit any strenuous activity and exercise, especially during the sun's peak hours from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Take frequent breaks and drink lots of water if you work outside.
- Exercise when it is cooler, during early morning hours or in the evening.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and sugary drinks. These cause you to lose more body fluid.
- Stay indoors, ideally, in an air-conditioned place. If your house or apartment isn't air-conditioned, try spending 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.
- Take a cool shower or bath and reduce or eliminate strenuous activities during the hottest time of day.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing to reflect heat and sunlight.
- Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses and by using a broad spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher.
- 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.
- Neighbors should check on elderly neighbors to make sure they are safe.
- Bring pets inside and be sure to provide them with plenty of water.
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.
Also, don't forget to apply sunscreen. Just a few serious sunburns can increase your risk of skin cancer later in life. Learn how to protect yourself.
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 on (800) 535-1345.
- 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.
Summer Safety Resources
- Staying Safe in the Sun: Lookup the UV index in your area
- Sun Safety Action Steps (EPA)
- SunWise Kids (EPA)
- Understanding the UV index range (EPA)
- Playing It Safe In the Sun: A Guide for Parents (CDC)
- Staying safe in and around the pool
- Recreational water illnesses (CDC)
- Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act
Pet Safety Tips