Quick Heat-Beating Tips
- If possible, stay out of the sun. When in the sun, wear sunscreen (at least SPF 15) and a hat to protect your face and head.
- Use an air conditioner if you have one. Set the thermostat no lower than 78 degrees.
- If you do not have an air conditioner, keep rooms well-ventilated with open windows and fans. Consider going to a public pool, air-conditioned store, mall, movie theater, or cooling center.
- Fans work best at night, when they can bring in cooler air from outside.
- Make a special effort to check on your neighbors during a heat wave, especially if they are seniors, young children, and people with special needs. Many older New Yorkers live alone and could suffer unnecessarily in the heat because they are isolated from friends and family.
- Seniors and others who may be sensitive to extreme heat should contact friends, neighbors, or relatives at least twice a day during a heat wave.
- Drink fluids – particularly water – even if you do not feel thirsty.* Avoid beverages containing alcohol, caffeine, or high amounts of sugar.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible.
- Never leave children, pets, or those who require special care in a parked car during periods of intense summer heat.
- Avoid strenuous activity, especially during the sun’s peak hours – 11 AM to 4 PM. If you must engage in strenuous activity, do it during the coolest part of the day, usually in the morning between 4 AM and 7 AM.
- Cool showers or baths may be helpful, but avoid extreme temperature changes. Never take a shower immediately after becoming overheated – extreme temperature changes may make you ill, nauseated, or dizzy.
- During heat emergencies, the City may open cooling centers. If cooling centers are open, call 311 (TTY: 212-504-4115) or locate a center online.
*People with heart, kidney or liver disease, or on fluid restricted diets should check with their doctors before increasing fluid intake.
Seek help if you feel symptoms of heat-related illness.
- HEAT CRAMPS: Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms, usually in the leg or stomach muscles, resulting from heavy exertion during extreme heat. Heat cramps usually occur when the heat index is between 90 and 105 degrees. Although heat cramps are the least severe of all heat-related health problems, they are often the first signal that the body is having trouble coping with the heat and should be treated immediately with rest and fluids. Stretching, gentle massaging of the spasms, or direct, firm pressure on cramps can reduce pain. Seek medical attention if pain is severe or nausea occurs.
HEAT EXHAUSTION: Heat exhaustion occurs when body fluids are lost through heavy sweating due to vigorous exercise or working in a hot, humid place. Blood flow to the skin increases, causing blood flow to vital organs to decrease. Symptoms include: sweating, pale and clammy skin, fatigue, headache, dizziness, shallow breaths, and a weak pulse.
Heat exhaustion should be treated with rest in a cool area, sipping water or electroyte solutions, applying cool and wet cloths, elevating the feet 12 inches, and further medical treatment in severe cases. If not treated, the victim’s condition may escalate to heat stroke. If the victim does not respond to basic treatment, seek medical attention. Heat exhaustion usually occurs when the heat index is between 90 and 105 degrees.
HEAT STROKE: Heat stroke — also called “sunstroke” — occurs when the victim’s temperature control system, which produces perspiration to cool the body, stops working. The skin is flushed, hot and dry, and body temperature may be elevated. In fact, body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly. The victim may also be confused, develop seizures, breathe shallowly, and have a weak, rapid pulse.
Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness and people exhibiting its symptoms should seek emergency medical attention. Heat stroke usually occurs when the heat index is 130 degrees or higher, but can occur when the heat index surpasses 105 degrees.
Ozone Levels and Your Health
Ozone, a major component of smog, is created in the presence of sunlight by reactions of chemicals found in gasoline vapors and emissions from cars and industrial smoke stacks. Hot summer weather can increase ozone levels.
The Environmental Protection Agency monitors ozone levels and issues air quality forecasts. When ozone levels in the unhealthy range are expected, New Yorkers are advised to limit vigorous outdoor physical activity during the afternoon and early evening hours when ozone levels are at their highest. If you have asthma or other respiratory problems, stay in an area where it is cool and the air is filtered or air-conditioned. Outdoor exercise should be scheduled for the morning hours whenever possible.
Children are generally more at risk to the effects of ozone, especially in the summer as children tend to spend more time outdoors. People who exercise moderately (such as jogging) are also at risk, because breathing rate increases with exercise and the amount of ozone delivered into the lung per minute increases. Additionally, ozone can have a dramatic effect on people with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or those sensitive to ozone.
Symptoms associated with unhealthy levels of ozone include:
- Chest pain
- Coughing & wheezing
- Lung & nasal congestion
- Labored breathing
- Eye & nose irritation
- Faster breathing
- Sore throat
High ozone levels can also decrease lung function, increase susceptibility to respiratory infection, and aggravate asthma and other chronic lung diseases. Schedule outdoor exercise and children’s outdoor activities for the morning hours. Individuals who experience respiratory symptoms or chest pain should consult their doctors.
To help reduce ozone levels:
- Avoid driving, especially on hot summer days. Use mass transit, walk, or carpool instead.
- Be careful not to spill gasoline and fill your gas tank during the cooler evening hours.
- Keep your car properly tuned and maintained.
- Seal containers of household cleaners, solvents, and chemicals to prevent evaporation of chemicals that can contribute to ozone formation.