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Heat wave strikes again

The New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM) opened cooling centers from Friday, July 18 through Monday, July 21 throughout the five boroughs. Cooling centers are public spaces such as Department for the Aging (DFTA) senior centers and New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) community centers where air conditioning is available.
According to the American Red Cross, a heat wave is a prolonged period of excessive heat and humidity. The Associated Press reported that over 30 people on the East Coast died in June’s heat wave. Six New York residents died of heat stroke, one of whom was only 57 years old.
The New York City Department of Health (DOH) described various heat illnesses on their web site, nyc.gov/health. Heat stroke occurs when a person’s temperature control system, which controls perspiration, stops working. Unless the body is cooled quickly, it can result in brain damage or death. Symptoms include confusion, seizures, shallow breathing, and weak pulse and requires immediate medical attention.
Heat cramps are the first sign that the body is having trouble coping with the heat and should be treated with rest and fluids. Heat exhaustion occurs when a person working in the heat loses so much body fluid that more blood is pumped to the skin instead of vital organs. Those suffering from heat exhaustion, which can escalate to heat stroke unless it is treated, should: rest in a cool area, sip water or electrolyte solutions, apply cool and wet cloths and elevate the feet 12 inches. Further medical attention is needed if the body does not respond to this treatment.
OEM said that the risk for heat illness is more serious for those who are younger than five, or older than 64; have chronic medical or mental health conditions; take medications; are confined to their beds or unable to leave their homes; or are overweight. Those on medications should check with their physician about the proper precautions to take during hot weather. Family, friends or neighbors who meet this criteria will need extra help in the extreme heat.
To cool off, use an air conditioner or visit an air-conditioned store, mall, museum, movie theater or cooling center. If the air is not too hot, fans work best at night to bring cooler air indoors but should only be used along with an air conditioner or an open window.
OEM advises New Yorkers to drink lots of water or other fluids, even when they are not thirsty and to avoid alcohol, caffeine or too much sugar. If possible, people should stay out of the sun or wear lightweight, light-colored clothing that covers most of the skin, as well as a hat and sunscreen (at least SPF 15) to protect exposed skin.
Those with children, pets or charges requiring special care, should never leave them in a parked care. Everyone should avoid strenuous activity, or plan it for the coolest part of the day, between 4 and 7 a.m.
Although cold showers may help, sudden temperature changes can bring on dizziness. Symptoms of heat illness include: hot, dry skin or cold, clammy skin; weakness; dizziness; nausea; vomiting; shortness of breath or trouble breathing; confusion, hallucinations, or disorientation. Stress caused by heat may aggravate heart or lung disease.
Opening fire hydrants without spray caps is not only wasteful, but dangerous. Illegally opened hydrants can lower water pressure, causing problems at hospitals and other medical facilities and can also reduce the flow of water to hoses and pumps in fire-fighting emergencies. Hydrants can be legally opened with a city-approved spray cap, obtainable by someone over 18 or over and free at local firehouses.
To conserve energy, turn off non-essential appliances and use air conditioners (with thermostats no lower than 78 degrees) only when at home, or set the timer for 30 minutes before you return.
For more information on coping with the heat, see the Ready New York: Beat the Heat guide at nyc.gov/oem. For more information on the health effects of extreme heat, visit nyc.gov/health.

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