With the current heat wave expected to continue throughout today, the Westchester County Department of Health is reminding residents that heat stress can occur when temperatures exceed 90 degrees and is providing tips on how to stay safe in the heat. In addition to concerns about the rising temperatures, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has also issued another ozone alert today for the New York City Metro area, which includes Westchester County.
To help residents cope with the soaring temperatures, the Health Department offers a 24-hour “Stay Cool” Information Line, 914-813-5620, which provides tips on how to stay cool in the summer heat and identifies air-conditioned locations such as libraries, shopping malls, movie theaters and senior centers throughout the county where residents can go to beat the heat. A listing of some air-conditioned community locations is available on the Health Department’s website, www.westchestergov.com/health. In addition, some communities have opened or are planning on opening cooling centers for their residents. Residents can log onto www.westchestergov.com to view an updated list of community cooling centers or they can contact their local city, village or town hall for information about cooling centers in their own community.
Residents can stay informed about current ozone conditions by calling the New York State DEC Ozone Hotline at 1-800-535-1345. Advisories are also posted on the DEC website, www.dec.state.ny.us.
“High humidity and crowded living conditions can increase the danger for heat stress, especially among the elderly, small children and those with chronic health problems whose bodies may not be able to stand the strain,” stated Joshua Lipsman, M.D., J.D., M.P.H., Westchester County Commissioner of Health. “During the summer months, it’s important to be aware of how your body is reacting to the heat,” he continued. “The first signs of heat stress can be mild and may go unnoticed. As the heat increases, you may experience general discomfort, lack of energy and a loss of appetite — all are warning signs to take precautions against further strain from the heat,” he warned.
There are other warning indications of increasing heat stress that require immediate action. They include rapid heartbeat, a throbbing headache, dry skin, no visible sweating, extreme weakness, mental changes, dizziness, diarrhea, nausea, chest pains, vomiting, cramps and breathing problems. If you experience any of these signs of physical distress, call your doctor or seek medical attention immediately.
During an Ozone Health Advisory, the Westchester County Department of Health recommends that residents limit strenuous outdoor physical activity, such as jogging, ball-playing and running during the afternoon and early evening hours when ozone levels are highest. People with existing respiratory ailments may be especially sensitive to the effects of ozone and should limit all outdoor exercise and physical exertion when ozone levels are elevated. Young children and elderly persons are also susceptible. It is helpful to remain in an air-conditioned location. Individuals experiencing symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain or coughing should consult their doctor.
It is best to take protective action before falling victim to the heat. Try to spend as much time as you can in pleasant surroundings - a cool room in your home, an air-conditioned mall, a senior citizen center, the public library or a movie theater. Fans can also provide good indoor circulation, and cool baths or showers offer excellent relief from the heat.
The Westchester County Department of Health recommends that residents protect themselves against heat stress by wearing loose-fitting, lightweight clothing; drinking a lot of water and avoiding hot foods, heavy meals and alcohol. If you have to be out in the sun, wear a wide-brimmed hat. It’s also important to remember that physical activity generates body heat, so it’s a good idea to slow down and take it easy as the temperature rises.
For further information on heat stress, contact the Westchester County Department of Health at (914) 813-5000 or visit www.westchestergov.com/health.