Tips to Beat the Heat – Health Department Wants You to Stay Cool

OSWEGO – Heat-related deaths and illness are preventable, yet annually many people succumb to extreme heat. More people in the United States die each year from extreme heat exposure than from hurricanes, lightening, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined. On average, about 300 people die each year from exposure to heat.

Daytime high temperatures are predicted to be in the 90s over the next several days in Central New York.

In addition, forecasters predict that night-time temperatures will remain in the 70s and humidity will remain high.

With these conditions, the Oswego County Health Department recommends that everyone understand the warning signs of heat-related illness and take special care of those at risk.

“The elderly and young children are at a higher risk for heat illness. People suffer heat-related illness when their bodies cannot properly cool themselves. The body normally cools itself by sweating. When humidity levels are high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, preventing the body from releasing heat quickly,” said Jiancheng Huang, Public Health Director for Oswego County.

Other conditions related to risk of heat-related illness include age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use.

Heat stroke is a serious illness that occurs when the body cannot regulate its temperature. The body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Body temperature may rise to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. This type of heat-related illness can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.

Warning signs of heat illness could include:

– extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees Fahrenheit)red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)

– throbbing headache

– dizziness, nausea and confusion, and

– unconsciousness.

Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after many days of exposure to high temperatures without proper fluid intake. If left untreated, it can progress to more serious heat stroke.

Warning signs of heat exhaustion could include:

– heavy sweating

– paleness

– muscle cramps

– tiredness, weakness or dizziness

– headache, nausea or vomiting, and

– fainting.

“It’s important to take precautions during hot weather. Air-conditioning is the number one protective factor against heat-related illness and death. If a home is not air-conditioned, people can reduce their risk for heat-related illness by spending time in public facilities that are air-conditioned,” Huang added.

Oswego County Director of Emergency Management Dale Currier said, “If anyone experiences serious signs and symptoms of heat-related illness, seek medical care immediately or call 911 to get EMS help.”

The Oswego County Health Department recommends the following during periods of hot weather:

– Take a cool shower or bath.

– Drink plenty of water.

– Try to avoid liquids that contain caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar – these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks because they can cause stomach cramps.

– Stay indoors and, if possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to a shopping mall, senior center, or public library; even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat.

If you must be out in the heat:

– NEVER leave anyone alone in a parked vehicle.

– Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.

– Cut down on physical activity.

– Drink plenty of water.

– Try to rest often in shady areas.

– Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a ventilated hat and sunglasses, and put on sun screen.

– Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

– Pets can be vulnerable to heat too. Make sure they have shade, plenty of water and never leave them in a parked vehicle.

To learn more about heat-related illness, call the Oswego County Health Department at 349-3547 or visit the New York State Department of Health web site at