State Health Department, State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Advise Caution in Hot Weather

Simple Precautions Can Reduce Threat of Dangerous Heat-Related Illnesses

ALBANY, N.Y. (July 6, 2010) – State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., today reminded New Yorkers to know the signs of heat-related illness and to protect themselves during this heat wave that is expected to continue through this week.

"A few simple measures can reduce heat-related problems, especially for the elderly, the very young, and people with respiratory ailments or chronic medical conditions that make them more susceptible to the effects of high temperatures," said Commissioner Daines. "By taking these precautions, potentially dangerous heat-related illnesses – such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion – can be avoided."

"Excessive heat can pose a danger that people need to be aware of," said John R. Gibb, Acting Commissioner of the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. "Above all, people need to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. If possible, stay out of the sun and in air conditioning. Also, check on your neighbors such as the elderly or infirm who may need assistance."

During normal weather, the body's internal thermostat produces perspiration that evaporates and cools the body. However, during periods of extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation is slowed and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature. If the body cannot cool itself, serious illness could result:

Heat stroke
is the most serious heat-related illness. Call emergency 911 immediately if the following symptoms occur: hot, dry, red skin, rapid pulse, high body temperature (≥ 105 ° F), loss of alertness, confusion, rapid and shallow breathing, and unconsciousness or coma. While waiting for assistance, bring the person to a cool place and apply sponges and fans. Wrapped ice packs will help on the neck, wrists, ankles and armpits.
Heat exhaustion
typically occurs when people over-exert themselves in a warm, humid place. Symptoms include: heavy sweating, fainting, vomiting, cold, pale, clammy skin, dizziness, headache, nausea and weakness. Heat exhaustion can quickly lead to heat stroke, so if symptoms worsen or do not improve, get medical help. Move the person to a cool place, loosen clothing and apply cool, wet cloths to the neck, face and arms. Give a half glass of water every 15 minutes (up to about one quart) and sip the water slowly. Stop the water if vomiting occurs.
Heat cramps
are muscle cramps in the abdominal area or extremities (e.g. arms and legs). They are often accompanied by heavy sweating and mild nausea. Move the person to a cool place, and apply firm pressure to the cramping muscle. You can also gently stretch the cramped muscle and hold it for 20 seconds, and then gently massage it. Drink cool water.
Heat rash
is a skin irritation that looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters. Move the person to a cooler place, keep the affected area dry or use talcum powder to increase comfort.

To protect you and your family during extreme heat, follow the tips below:

  • Never leave children, pets or those with special needs in a parked car, even briefly. Temperatures in the car can become dangerous within a few minutes.
  • Use air conditioning to cool down or go to an air-conditioned building or cooling center.
  • If you don't have air conditioning, open windows and shades on the shady side and close them on the sunny side to try to cool it down.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, but avoid alcohol, caffeine and sugary drinks.
  • Beat the heat with cool showers and baths.
  • Avoid strenuous activity during the hottest part of the day (between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.) and take regular breaks from physical activity.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing to help keep cool.
  • Wear sunscreen and a ventilated hat (e.g., straw or mesh) when in the sun and even if it is cloudy.

More information is available from the DOH web site at www.nyhealth.gov/environmental/emergency/weather/hot/ and at the SEMO web site at www.semo.state.ny.us/info/publicsafety/heataware.cfm