June 6, 2023
BW News

Westchester County Health Dept Issues Heat Advisory

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With hot and humid weather forecast and temperatures expected to reach or exceed 90 degrees in parts of the county throughout the week, the Westchester County Health Department is issuing a heat advisory. As temperatures rise, residents are advised to avoid strenuous activity, drink plenty of non-alcoholic, noncaffeinated beverages and take precautions to prevent heat-related illness.

Heat stroke is a serious and life-threatening condition that claims many lives nationwide each year. Symptoms include hot red, dry skin, shallow breathing, a rapid, weak pulse, and confusion. Anyone suffering from heat stroke needs to receive emergency medical treatment immediately. Call 911 if you suspect heat stroke and immediately cool the overheated person while waiting for emergency help to arrive.

“Heat stroke and dehydration can take you by surprise,” said Sherlita Amler, MD, Westchester County commissioner of health. “The elderly, young children and those with high blood pressure, heart disease or lung conditions need to be especially careful to avoid heat-related illnesses. High humidity and some medications can also increase a person’s risk for heat stroke.”

While less dangerous than heat stroke, heat exhaustion also poses concerns. Seniors, children up to age four, people who are overweight or who have high blood pressure and those who work in hot environments are most at risk. Signs include headache, nausea or vomiting, dizziness and exhaustion, as well as cool, moist, pale or flushed skin. People suffering from heat exhaustion should be moved out of the sun and have cool, wet cloths applied to their skin.

Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are often confused. Symptoms of heat exhaustion can include headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and exhaustion, but body temperature remains normal. To assist someone with heat exhaustion, provide cool non-caffeinated beverages and encourage them to cool off.

The Health Department recommends never leaving children, pets or those who need special care in a parked vehicle. Temperatures inside a closed car can quickly soar to more than 140 degrees inside and this can be life-threatening. Other recommendations include:

  • Drink two to four glasses of water per hour during extreme heat, even if you aren’t thirsty.
  • Limit any strenuous activity and exercise, especially during the sun’s peak hours from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Take frequent breaks and drink lots of water if you work outside.
  • Exercise when it is cooler, during early morning hours or in the evening.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and sugary drinks. These cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps
  • Check on your neighbors, especially the elderly, the very young and those with special needs.
  • Stay indoors, ideally, in an air-conditioned place.  If your house or apartment isn’t air-conditioned, try spending time at a shopping mall, public library or even the grocery store.  A few hours spent in air-conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back to a warmer place.
  • If you must go outdoors, wear sunscreen with a high sun protection factor of at least 15 and a hat to protect your face and head. Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing to reflect heat and sunlight. Try to avoid the sun during the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when it is strongest.
  • Assure pets have enough water and food and limit their exercise during high temperature times.

For addresses and phone numbers of libraries and senior centers, go to http://health.westchestergov.com/stay-safe-in-the-sun(link is external).

For additional relief from the heat, local senior centers, community centers and libraries are often designated as cooling centers when needed. Residents should check with their municipality for the latest availability, hours and locations. Yonkers has seven cooling centers open today; New Rochelle has two.

Mayor Richard Thomas has issued a heat advisory to all Mount Vernon residents. Our region is bracing for a heat wave now through Tuesday. Temperatures at times will rise as high as the upper 90’s, causing serious health risks especially for the youth and the elderly. During this heat wave, please stay inside as much as possible, always stay hydrated, and please regularly check on elderly neighbors, friends, and family members.

Some other ideas:

  • Take a cool shower or bath and reduce or eliminate strenuous activities during the hottest time of day.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing to reflect heat and sunlight.
  • Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, and by using a broad spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher.
  • NEVER leave anyone – a person or animal – in a closed, parked vehicle.  Temperatures inside a closed vehicle can quickly exceed 140º F, which is life-threatening.
  • Neighbors should check on elderly neighbors to make sure they are safe.
  • Bring pets inside and be sure to provide them with plenty of water.

Elevated heat and humidity can also lead to unhealthy ozone levels. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation forecasts daily ozone conditions on its website, http://www.dec.ny.gov(link is external), for the New York Metropolitan area, which includes Westchester County.  Air quality updates are also provided daily on the New York State Air Quality Hotline at 1-800-535-1345. Ozone is a gas produced by the action of sunlight on organic air contaminants from automobile exhausts and other sources.  Significant exposure to ozone in the air has been linked with adverse health effects. These may include nose and throat irritation, respiratory symptoms and decreases in lung function.

People who experience these symptoms should speak with a healthcare provider. Those who may be especially sensitive to the effects of ozone exposure include the very young, those who exercise outdoors or are involved in strenuous outdoor work and those with pre-existing respiratory problems such as asthma. When ozone levels are elevated, the Westchester County Department of Health recommends limiting strenuous physical activity outdoors to reduce the risk of adverse effects.

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