Extreme heat: Coping strategies for staying safe and cool

Posted 7/19/23

REGION — Extreme heat poses significant risks to individuals, particularly in areas where air conditioning is scarce. 

Drawing from the New York State Department of Environmental …

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Extreme heat: Coping strategies for staying safe and cool


REGION — Extreme heat poses significant risks to individuals, particularly in areas where air conditioning is scarce. 

Drawing from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), here you’ll find practical advice and useful resources to help individuals protect themselves and their loved ones during periods of extreme heat. 

Extreme heat impacts occur unevenly, especially affecting vulnerable groups. In areas such as Sullivan County, where air conditioning is not universally available, it is crucial to explore alternative methods for staying cool.

The window to apply for Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) cooling benefits has closed in Sullivan for 2023, but you should check it out next year. Based on various factors, such as your income and household size, you could be eligible for cooling assistance benefits to stay cool for the summer.  

HEAP is also tailored for people who have a vulnerable family member, based on age (60 years or older) or young children (birth through age five). 

To learn more about HEAP for next year, call the Sullivan County Department of Social Services at 845/807-0142. 

Stay cool

In instances where air conditioning is limited or unavailable, the DEC recommends several measures to beat the heat. First: stay hydrated. “Do NOT wait until you’re thirsty to start drinking water,” the agency said.

This can sound trivial, but staying hydrated is essential during the summer months. Dehydration can lead to dizziness, headaches, fatigue and other symptoms, which would exacerbate a heat-related illness.

Wearing loose-fitting, lightweight clothing made of breathable fabrics is another effective strategy to stay cool without air conditioning. Such clothing allows air to pass along the skin and exit, evaporating sweat and aiding in natural cooling. 

Also, consider an “air conditioning break” at a local mall, library or other public facility during the day. 

Don’t be afraid to take cool showers or baths to cool down. 

If you choose to exercise or have to work outside, “try to do so in the early morning or evening hours when the sun is down, and temperatures are not as extreme,” as Jackie Brey, commissioner of the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services says. 

Look out for your neighbors. “New Yorkers, we take care of one another, so please don’t forget to check on neighbors, especially seniors, those with young children and people with disabilities,” said New York Gov. Kathy Hochul.

It is essential to be familiar with the symptoms of heat-related illnesses or a heat stroke for yourself and others. Symptoms of heat-related illnesses include muscle cramps, dizziness, headaches, nausea, weakness or vomiting, per weather.gov. 

If this happens, follow first aid tips or seek medical attention if necessary.

If someone has heat exhaustion, you should lay that person down in a cooler place if possible, remove any heavy clothing and provide the person with cool water if available, according to the CDC.

Heat stroke is different from heat cramps and heat exhaustion. In addition to the symptoms mentioned above, during heat stroke, when your body temperature is above 103 degrees Fahrenheit, you can develop a throbbing headache; hot, red, dry or damp skin; a rapid and strong pulse; fainting and loss of consciousness. 

Heat stroke is officially a medical emergency and can lead to “death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not given,” according to Brigham Young University. You should call 911 or get the victim to the hospital immediately. 

As for young children, “parents and guardians should never leave a child or a pet alone in a hot car even if the windows are rolled down, as temperatures can soar to dangerous levels within minutes,” said former New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett. 

According to the National Safety Council, on average, 38 children under the age of 15 die each year from heatstroke after being left in a car.

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