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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
June 08, 2005

Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Nathan Rudy
609-984-7160


 
DHSS Cautions New Jerseyans To Protect Themselves, Family and the Vulnerable From Summer Heat


 

Summer heat has arrived in New Jersey and with it comes the risk of adverse health effects for residents of all ages.  The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) reminds people to take precautions to ensure a safe, healthy and fun summer season.

 

"Summer heat means taking special care to protect ourselves and loved ones from the risk of heat stroke, heat exhaustion, sunstroke and other physical damage due to dehydration or salt depletion," said DHSS Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs. M.D., J.D.

 

Heatstroke occurs when the body loses the ability to cool itself. People can go from appearing normal to extremely ill in a matter of minutes. They may develop a high body temperature of 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, very hot and dry skin, a rapid and strong pulse, and 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. It occurs when the body's water and salts lost through perspiration are not adequately replaced. 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. Heat exhaustion can be severe enough to require hospitalization

 

During hotter summers, as many as 170 people are admitted to hospitals in New Jersey due to heat overexposure, and many more have to be treated in emergency departments or at home.  Most summers see fewer than five people dying from excessive heat, but a very hot summer can mean an increase in deaths, especially for very vulnerable populations including the elderly and young children.  In 1999 New Jersey saw 30 deaths due to excessive heat, and in 2002 another 18.

 

However, with proper precautions it is very easy to identify symptoms, protect oneself and beat the heat.  DHSS recommends the following actions for all New Jersey residents:

  • Drink plenty of water or other non-alcoholic beverages throughout the day.  Proper hydration is very important to ward off heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
  • If possible, reduce physical activity or reschedule it for cooler times of the day.
  • Wear loose and light-colored clothing. When in the sun, be sure to apply sunscreen to all exposed skin and wear a hat or head covering.
  • If you do not have air conditioning in your home, take advantage of any air-conditioned shelters such as libraries, movies, malls, schools or other publicly accessible buildings during the hottest hours of the day.
  • Take care not to overdress children and to give them plenty of liquids to drink throughout the day. Children under age five, particularly those under age one, are especially sensitive to the effects of heat.
  • Check on elderly relatives and neighbors to see if they need help taking proper heat precautions, or if they need medical attention because of the heat. Make sure individuals who are bedridden or have mobility problems have adequate fluids within easy reach.
  • Don't leave 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.
  • Talk to your health care provider about any medicine or drugs you are taking. Certain medications -- such as tranquilizers and drugs used to treat Parkinson's disease -- can increase the risk of heat-related illness.

More information on summer heat and protecting yourself and your family from related illnesses can be found on the DHSS website at http://nj.gov/health/chs/monthlyfactsheets/may05heat.pdf .

 
 
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