father and son talking by phone on hot day, with son reminding father to use air conditioning. Text reads Be a Buddy! When it's hot, make sure neighbors and family are in an air-conditioned place.




Extreme Heat and Your Health

COVID-19 and Summer Heat: Stay Cool and Safe

You can help slow the spread of COVID-19 and stay safe during hot weather by spending time in your air-conditioned home.

If you do not have air conditioning:

The virus that causes COVID-19 cannot enter your home through an air conditioner or an open window. The virus is usually spread to people when they are in close contact (within about 6 feet) with a person who has COVID-19. It is spread through droplets that are sprayed when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and possibly when they sing or talk.

If someone with COVID-19 is in your home, open the windows to increase air circulation. This may reduce the amount of virus in the air. During heat waves, opening windows is not enough to keep cool and you should find a safe air-conditioned space.


Hot and humid weather is not just uncomfortable, it can cause heat illness and even death. The extra stress on the body from heat can also worsen chronic health conditions such as heart and lung disease. In NYC, most heatstroke deaths happened to people who were in homes without air conditioning. Air conditioning saves lives.

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People at High Risk for Illness

Factors that Increase Risk

People are more likely to die from heat if they do not have or use air conditioning and:

  • Have chronic medical conditions, such as heart, lung or kidney disease, diabetes or obesity.
  • Have serious mental health, cognitive or developmental conditions, such as dementia or schizophrenia.
  • Take medicines that make it difficult for your body to stay cool (speak to your doctor or pharmacist for more information).
  • Misuse drugs or alcohol.
  • Have limited mobility or are unable to leave the home.

Adults age 60 and older are more likely to have some combination of these risk factors. Black New Yorkers are also at a higher risk of dying from heat due in part to racist systems and policies that impact their health and available resources. You can see this impact at the neighborhood level in the NYC Heat Vulnerability Index.

Heat impacts are also more likely to be experienced among:

  • Infants and children: Babies and children up to 4 years old are more sensitive to heat. Caregivers need to make sure that infants and children stay cool and have enough to drink. Watch for signs they may be getting sick from the heat. Never leave children by themselves in a vehicle.

  • Pregnant people: Pregnant people are sensitive to heat. An increase in body temperature may bring on labor, preterm birth or lower birth weight. Those who are pregnant should stay in a cool place, drink fluids and take it easy when it’s hot.

  • Workers: People who work in hot indoor places are at risk of getting sick from the heat. People who work outside are also at risk during very hot weather. Water, rest and keeping cool can help workers stay safe.

Signs of Heat Illness

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke occurs when the body's temperature rises quickly, which can lead to death. Call 911 or go to an emergency room if you or someone you know has the following symptoms:

  • Hot, dry skin
  • Confusion, hallucinations and disorientation
  • Loss of consciousness or being unresponsive
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Trouble breathing
  • Fast, strong pulse
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness

Heat Exhaustion

If you or someone you know has signs of heat exhaustion, get to a cool place, remove extra clothes and drink lots of water.

Symptoms to look for:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Muscle cramps
  • Lightheadedness or feeling faint
  • Headache
  • Decreased energy
  • Loss of appetite or nausea

Prevention

Indoor Heat Safety

Follow these tips to help lower your risk of suffering from heat illness while indoors:

  • Use your air conditioner if you have one. Fans are not enough to stay cool.
  • Set your air conditioning unit to 78° or “low cool” to be safe, comfortable and save money. Just a few hours in a cool place can make a difference.
  • Close window shades or curtains.
  • Try not to use your stove and oven.
  • Take a cool shower or bath.
  • Drink plenty of water, even if you are not thirsty.
  • Avoid drinks with alcohol, caffeine or lots of sugar.

Outdoor Heat Safety

Stay safe outdoors with these tips:

  • Avoid strenuous physical activity.
  • Drink plenty of water, even if you are not thirsty.
  • Stay in the shade and out of direct sun.
  • Wear light, loose-fitting clothes.
  • Put a hat on to protect your face and head.
  • Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher.
  • Limit outdoor activities to early morning and late evening hours.
  • Avoid drinks with alcohol, caffeine or sugar.

If your work outdoors regularly, you are at higher risk for heat illness. To lower your risk:

  • Drink water every 15 minutes.
  • Take frequent rest breaks in shaded or air-conditioned areas.
  • Wear lightweight, light colored, loose-fitting clothing if possible.
  • Be alert for the signs of heat illness in yourself and in your colleagues.

Check the Weather Reports

Regularly check the heat index at the National Weather Service or other news source. The heat index is a measure of how hot it feels based on temperature and humidity. A heat index above 95°F is especially dangerous.

Be A Buddy: Help Those at Risk

Check on family, friends and neighbors to make sure they stay safe and cool. Encourage them to use air conditioning. Air conditioning is the best way to keep cool when it is hot outside. Setting air conditioning to 78°F can help them stay safe, comfortable and save money on utility bills. If they cannot stay cool at home, help them get to an air-conditioned place.

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