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News Release

   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
  June 27, 2002


Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.

For Further Information Contact:
Laura Otterbourg or Dennis McGowan

Commissioner Urges Caution in Hot, Humid Weather

TRENTON - Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D., is urging New Jersey residents to take steps to protect themselves, their families and neighbors from heat-related illnesses, especially as temperatures reach into the 90s and the air becomes humid this summer.

"High heat and humidity pose a serious health risk to the very young, the elderly, people with chronic diseases, and those who work or exercise vigorously outdoors," said Dr. Lacy. "While these individuals are at greater risk of heat exhaustion, heatstroke or other heat-related illnesses, it is prudent for everyone to take precautions this summer."

Heatstroke, the most serious of these illnesses, occurs when the body loses the ability to cool itself. Victims can go from being apparently normal to being 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 body's 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 headache and sometimes cramps, but their body temperature is close to normal. Heat exhaustion can be severe enough to require hospitalization.

"One of the most important ways to prevent heat-related illnesses is to drink plenty of fluids, even if you aren't thirsty," Dr. Lacy said. "A body under stress from heat may require up to 50 percent more fluid intake than thirst would indicate. One should avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine that can lead to dehydration."

Dr. Lacy said senior citizens and those concerned about a senior's health, should call the New Jersey EASE 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 offered by the Department of Health and Senior Services for avoiding heat-related illness includes the following:

  • 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 that individuals who are bedridden or have mobility problems have adequate fluids within easy reach.

  • If you are elderly or otherwise at risk, take advantage of any air-conditioned shelters that are set up during heat waves.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • If possible, reduce physical activity or reschedule it for the cooler parts of the day. Wear loose and light-colored clothing. When in the sun, be sure to wear a hat or head covering.
  • Check with your health care provider before taking salt tablets. Salt supplements are not necessary for the general public, although those who regularly work under very hot conditions should consider drinking fluids supplemented with the appropriate salts.
  • 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.

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Department of Health and Senior Services
P. O. Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

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