Hot and humid summer weather can cause heat illness and even death. More Americans die from heat waves than all other natural disasters combined. In New York City, more than 80% of heat stroke deaths in recent years involved victims who were exposed to heat in homes without air conditioning. Older adults, people with chronic medical conditions or mental health conditions, the socially isolated, and certain other groups are most vulnerable.
Pay attention to weather reports on the news, or check National Weather Service reports. 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 for older adults and other vulnerable individuals.
The best way to prevent heat illness is to stay in an air conditioned place. Make sure you and your family stay cool during a heat wave. If you or someone you know cannot stay cool at home, visit a cool place like a library, a friend's home with air conditioning, or a city cooling center. Cooling centers are open across the city during serious heat waves. To locate one, visit: Find a Cooling Center or call 311. The Cooling Assistance Program provides a limited number of air conditioners for people who meet income criteria and have written letter from a healthcare provider documenting an increased risk for heat-related illness. Get more information or apply by calling 311.
Check on vulnerable family, friends, and neighbors to make sure they stay safe and cool. Air conditioning is the best way to keep cool when it is hot outside, but some people do not have an air conditioner or do not turn it on when they need it. Encourage them to use air conditioning. Help them get to an air-conditioned place if they cannot stay cool at home.
Heat illness occurs when the body cannot cool down. The most serious forms of heat illness are heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke occurs when the body's temperature rises quickly, and can rapidly lead to death. Keeping cool can be hard work for the body. This extra stress on the body can also worsen other health conditions such as heart and lung disease.
Signs of serious heat illness include:
Call 911 or go to the emergency room right away if you or someone you know has these symptoms of heat illness.
Warning Signs of Heat Illness
If you or someone you know has warning signs of heat illness, get to a cool place, remove extra clothes, and drink lots of water.
People most likely to get sick from heat include people who:
Talk to your doctor about how to prevent heat illness during hot and humid weather. If you don't have a doctor, call 311 or TTY: 212-504-4115 to find a doctor or clinic nearby.
Use your air conditioner when you are home. Air conditioning can be a life saver. When it is hot outside, it can be even hotter inside!
If you do not have an air conditioner:
People who work or exercise outdoors are at risk of becoming dehydrated and developing heat-related illness.
For more information visit the Occupational Safety & Health Administration Heat Illness website .