High Temperatures and Humidity Can Profoundly Affect the Health and Safety of Older Adults
New York State Office for the Aging Acting Director Greg Olsen reminds older New Yorkers and their family members to take precautions in extreme heat, as high temperatures and humidity can create hazardous conditions for older adults. The National Weather Service is forecasting a significant heat wave starting this weekend.
“Extreme heat and humidity can be serious, and can be particularly dangerous for older adults,” said Olsen. “Older adults, especially those who are low-income, live alone, have chronic conditions or who take certain medications, are more susceptible to heat-related illness. During summer months, and particularly during a heat wave, neighbors and family members should check on older individuals daily to make sure they are healthy and safe.”
Earlier this week, Governor Cuomo cautioned New Yorkers to prepare for an extended period of dangerous heat and humidity, which is expected to begin Friday, June 29 and last through Monday, July 2. The combination of high temperatures and humidity will result in heat ranging from the mid-90s and up to 104 degrees, especially in urban areas and in lower elevations and valleys.
Excessive heat is the leading cause of preventable, weather-related deaths each year, particularly among older New Yorkers. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heat causes more than 600 preventable deaths in the United States yearly. To help older New Yorkers stay safe during excessive heat, the CDC offers the following tips:
- Tune in regularly to local weather forecasts and alerts so you know when to take extra precautions.
- Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible. Do not rely on a fan only as your main cooling source when it’s really hot outside.
- Drink more water than usual. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
- If your doctor limits the amount of fluids you drink or has you on water pills, ask them how much you should drink during hot weather.
- Don’t use the stove or oven to cook—it will make you and your house hotter.
- If you must go outdoors, wear sunscreen (at least SPF 15) and a hat to protect your face and head. While outdoors, wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
- Take cool showers or baths to cool down.
- Do not engage in strenuous activities and get plenty of rest.
- Do not leave children, pets or those who require special care in a parked vehicle during periods of intense summer heat.
- Make sure there is enough food and water for pets.
- Regularly check on a friend or neighbor and have someone do the same for you.
- Seek medical care immediately if you have or someone you know has symptoms of heat-related illness like muscle cramps, headaches, nausea or vomiting.
If your home does not have air conditioning, visit the New York State Department of Health’s website or call NY Connects at 1-800-342-9871 to find a cooling center near you.
Cooling center locations are also available on NYSOFA’s first in the nation aging services mobile app, which connects older adults and their families with vital services and information in their communities. This free app is available for download on iOS devices and Android devices.
In addition, Governor Cuomo recently announced that $3 million in federal funding was made available for New Yorkers with serious health issues to receive assistance to purchase air conditioners through the Home Heating Assistance Program (HEAP). Cooling assistance will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis. Local departments of social services will accept applications through August 31, or until funding runs out.
All pools and beaches across the New York State Park system will be open for individuals to cool off during the hot days ahead. A list of swimming locations is available here. Additional swimming opportunities are available at many Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) campgrounds in the Adirondack and Catskill parks.
Swimmers should keep in mind that lakes, rivers, and streams with water temperatures below 77 degrees can be dangerous and can potentially cause hypothermia. Currently, Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, and Lake Champlain have reported temperatures ranging from 54 degrees to 65 degrees.
For more information on how to stay safe during periods of excessive heat, please visit the New York State Department of Health website.