TRENTON — Temperatures in New Jersey are expected to hit the mid-90s both Wednesday and Thursday and the Department of Health and Senior Services recommends that residents take precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
“The best way to avoid heat stroke is to drink plenty of fluids, stay in cool places and avoid over exerting yourself,” said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Mary O’Dowd. “The department also recommends that residents check on elderly family members and neighbors to make sure they are safe. Extreme heat and humidity can be especially dangerous to the elderly, young children and persons taking certain medications.”
Each year more than 1,200 persons are treated in New Jersey emergency departments for heat-related illness or sunburn. Overexposure to heat causes between 45 and 170 hospitalizations in New Jersey annually depending on the average outdoor temperature. The majorities of those hospitalized in New Jersey are male, aged 65-84, and are hospitalized for three or more days.
To safeguard against health complications from excessive heat, the Department of Health and Senior suggests:
- Drinking plenty of water or other non-alcoholic beverages.
- For those without air conditioning, spending time in air-conditioned places such as libraries, movies, malls or other public buildings during the hottest hours of the day. Check with your municipality to see if cooling centers are available.
- Wearing sunscreen, a hat and loose and light-colored clothing when outdoors
- Avoiding outdoor activity during the hottest hours of the day and reducing physical activity or reschedule it for cooler times of the day.
- Never leaving children, a frail elderly or disabled person, or pets in an enclosed car — not even for a minute — as temperatures can quickly climb to dangerous levels.
- Talking to your health care provider about any medicine or drugs you are taking as certain medications — such as tranquilizers and drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease — can increase the risk of heat-related illness.
Extreme temperatures and humidity can also bring on heat stroke and heat exhaustion. People suffering heatstroke can go from appearing normal to extremely ill in a matter of minutes. Symptoms include having hot, dry skin, a high body temperature of 106 degrees or more, an absence of sweat, and a rapid and strong pulse. Victims may become delirious or unconscious. Persons suffering from heatstroke need immediate medical attention.
Heat exhaustion is a milder illness that may take several days of high temperatures to develop. Victims may have pale, clammy skin and sweat profusely. They may feel tired, weak or dizzy and have headaches or sometimes cramps, but their body temperature will remain close to normal.
For more information on preventing heat-related illness, visit the DHSS web site at www.nj.gov/health/eoh/hhazweb/cool.htm.
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