State Health Department, Office of Emergency Management Issue Tips to Weather Heat Wave

ALBANY, NY (July 20, 2011) -- With much of the State under an Excessive Heat Watch today as temperatures are forecast to climb into the mid- to upper 90s over the next couple of days, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) and the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) offered New Yorkers the following advice to get through the expected oppressive heat.

"High temperatures are common during the summer in New York, but when temperatures reach extreme levels for extended periods of time, the intense heat can be dangerous to your health," said State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D. "Heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses can cause serious health problems, especially for the elderly, infants and young children, people with respiratory ailments or chronic medical conditions, and anyone who works outdoors. We urge all New Yorker to be aware of the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and what to do if someone has them, and also take steps to keep cool and remain healthy when temperatures are high."

Andrew X. Feeney, Director of State OEM, said: "It's important that people take precautions to help lessen the chances of heat-related problems to help make the hot weather less distressing, actions such as drinking plenty of fluids, staying out of the sun and in an air-conditioned room, if possible, and wearing light-colored clothing" said. "It's also important to check on your neighbors, especially the elderly and those with pre-existing health problems."

The National Weather Service has issued an Excessive Heat Watch, which means that a prolonged period of hot temperatures is expected. The combination of hot temperatures and high humidity can create a dangerous situation in which heat illnesses are possible.

To counter the oppressive heat and humidity, DOH and OEM offered this advice:

  • Slow down on strenuous activity and exercise, especially during the sun's peak hours – 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Exercise should be done in the early morning between 4-7 a.m.
  • Heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body. These are necessary for your body and must be replaced. The easiest and safest way to do this is through your diet. Drink fruit juice or a sports beverage when you exercise or work in the heat.
  • Drink at least 2-4 glasses of water per hour during extreme heat, even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid beverages containing alcohol or caffeine.
  • If possible, stay out of the sun and stay in air conditioning. The sun heats the inner core of your body, resulting in dehydration. If air-conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor, out of the sunshine, or go to a public building with air conditioning.
  • If you must go outdoors, wear sunscreen with a high sun protector factor rating (at least SPF 15) and a hat to protect your face and head. When outdoors, wear loose-fitting, lightweight and light-colored clothing. Cover as much skin as possible to avoid sunburn and over-warming effects of sunlight on your body.
  • Do not leave children, pets or those who require special care in a parked car or vehicle during periods of intense summer heat. Temperatures inside a closed vehicle can reach over 140 degrees Fahrenheit quickly. Exposure to such high temperatures can kill within a matter of minutes.
  • Make an effort to check on your neighbors during a heat wave, especially if they are elderly, have young children or have special needs.
  • Make sure there is enough water and food for pets and limit their exercise.


  • Elderly persons and small children are mostly affected.
  • Persons with weight or alcohol problems are very susceptible to heat reactions.
  • Persons on certain medications or drugs.


Heat Stroke: Also known as sunstroke - can be life threatening. Body temperature can rise and cause brain damage; death may result if not cooled quickly. Signals include hot, red, and dry skin; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse, and shallow breathing. Relief for lowering body temperature can be with a cold bath or sponge.

Heat Exhaustion: Less dangerous than heat stroke, heat exhaustion usually occurs when people exercise too heavily or work in warm, humid places where body fluids are lost. Signals include cool, moist, pale or flushed skin; heavy sweating; headache; nausea or vomiting; dizziness and exhaustion. If symptoms occur, get the victim out of sun, and apply cool, wet cloths.

Sunburn: Sunburn slows the skin's ability to cool itself. Signals include redness and pain; in severe cases, swelling of skin, blisters, fever, and headaches can occur. Ointments can be a relief for pain in mild cases. A physician should see serious cases.

Heat Cramps: Muscular pains and spasms caused by heavy exertion. Loss of water and salt from sweating causes cramping. Signals are abdominal and leg muscle pain. Relief can be firm pressure on cramping muscles, or gentle massages to relieve cramping.


  • Power outages are more likely to occur during warm weather, when utility usage is at its peak. To avoid putting a strain on the power grid, conserve energy to help prevent power disruptions.
  • Set your air conditioner thermostat no lower than 78 degrees.
  • Only use the air conditioner when you are home.
  • Turn non-essential appliances off. Only use appliances that have heavy electrical loads early in the morning or very late at night.