Today, AARP is releasing key tips and advice to help residents stay safe and cool. Staying cool during a blistering summer can mean the difference between life and death, as more Americans die from heat waves than all other natural disasters combined.
Older adults stand a greater risk of heat stroke or heat exhaustion because their bodies do not easily adjust to changes in temperature, making it critically important for people to check on older family, friends, or neighbors, especially those without air conditioning in their homes who accounted for more than 80% of heat stroke deaths in New York City in recent years. The HEAP Cooling Assistance program assists low-income New Yorkers with the cost of cooling their homes. To see household eligibility requirements click here or visit www.otda.ny.gov.
AARP is reminding New Yorkers to be aware of the warning signs of heat stroke, which include feeling dizzy, faint or nauseous, and experiencing cramping in the arms or legs. A person’s pulse may be fast and weak, and their body temperature will be above normal. Body temperatures above 103 degrees can lead to death or permanent damage to the brain and other organs.
Symptoms of heat-related illness can be slow to develop and often the person is unaware that they are in any danger.
To combat heat-related illness, AARP New York recommends older adults:
- Stay indoors and in an air-conditioned environment as much as possible.
- Plan strenuous outdoor activities for early or late in the day when temperatures are cooler.
- Take frequent breaks when working outdoors.
- Drink plenty of fluids but avoid beverages that contain alcohol, caffeine or a lot of sugar.
- Eat more frequently but make sure meals are balanced and light.
- Check frequently on people who are elderly, ill or may need help. If you might need help, arrange to have family, friends or neighbors check in with you at least twice a day throughout warm weather periods.
- Salt tablets should only be taken if specified by your doctor. If you are on a salt-restrictive diet, check with a doctor before increasing salt intake.
- If you take prescription diuretics, antihistamines, mood-altering or antispasmodic drugs, check with a doctor about the effects of sun and heat exposure.
- Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun. Awnings or louvers can reduce the heat entering a house by as much as 80 percent.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sun block and light-colored, loose-fitting clothes when outdoors.
- At first signs of heat illness (dizziness, nausea, headaches, muscle cramps), move to a cooler location, rest for a few minutes and slowly drink a cool beverage. Seek medical attention immediately if you do not feel better.
- Avoid extreme temperature changes. A cool shower immediately after coming in from hot temperatures can result in hypothermia, particularly for elderly or very young people.
If the power goes out or air conditioning is not available:
- If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine.
- Ask your doctor about any prescription medicine you keep refrigerated. (If the power goes out, most medicine will be fine to leave in a closed refrigerator for at least 3 hours.)
- Keep a few bottles of water in your freezer; if the power goes out, move them to your refrigerator and keep the doors shut.
- Find a local cooling center such as a library or senior center. Call your local town government or visit their website to find where the centers are located. In New York City, call 311 or visit www.nyc.gov.