Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
May 6, 2000
Dennis McGowan &
TRENTON - With temperatures in the 90s expected this week throughout the state, Health and Senior Services Commissioner Christine Grant is urging New Jersey residents to take steps to protect themselves, their families and neighbors from heat-related illness.
"The very young, the elderly and those who work or exercise vigorously outdoors are especially at risk," Grant said. "But anyone exposed to enough heat can develop heatstroke, heat exhaustion or other heat-related illnesses."
Heatstroke, the most serious of these illnesses, occurs when the body loses the ability to cool itself. Victims can go from apparently normal to extremely ill in a matter of minutes. They will have a high body temperature (106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher), very hot and dry skin, a rapid and strong pulse, and may be 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 water and salts lost through perspiration are not adequately replaced. Victims may have pale, clammy skin and be sweating profusely. They may feel tired and weak, dizzy, have a headache and sometimes cramps, but their body temperature is close to normal. Heat exhaustion can be severe enough to require hospitalization.
"There are a number of steps people can take to guard against these illnesses," Grant said. "One of the most important things to do is to drink plenty of fluids, even if you aren't thirsty. When the body is under stress from heat, you may need up to 50 percent more to drink than your thirst would indicate. But stay clear of drinks with alcohol or caffeine: such drinks can lead to dehydration."
Grant encourages seniors, and those concerned about a senior's health, to call the department's New Jersey EASE (Easy Access, Single Entry) toll-free telephone service at 1-877-222-3737 to get advice on coping with the heat. This one number connects seniors statewide with their local County Office on Aging, which can provide information on nearby air-conditioned public sites as well as assistance with transportation.
Spending even a few hours in an air-conditioned place -- such as a shopping mall or library -- can help anyone, especially the elderly, cope with hot, humid weather.
Other advice for avoiding heat-related illness: