TRENTON, NJ — With temperatures in New Jersey hitting triple digits, the New Jersey Department of Health is urging residents to take steps to avoid heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
“There were 176 emergency department visits between May 29 and July 8 due to heat-related illness,” state epidemiologist Dr. Tina Tan said. “It is critical for residents to drink plenty of fluids, spend time in cool places and reduce or reschedule any physical activity.”
Prolonged exposure to high temperatures can cause heat stroke and death, especially in people who take certain medications.
To avoid health complications from excessive heat: drink plenty of water or other non-alcoholic beverages; make sure children, the elderly and those with chronic health conditions are drinking water and ensure that persons with mobility problems have adequate fluids in easy reach; wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays; use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher and both UVA and UVB protection; if you do not have air conditioning, spend time in air-conditioned places such as libraries, movies, malls or other public buildings during the hottest hours of the day. Check with your municipality to see if cooling centers are available; wear loose and light-colored clothing, as well as a hat when outdoors; avoid any outdoor activity during the hottest hours of the day, and reduce physical activity or reschedule it for cooler times of the day, such as early morning or evening; 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; and talk to your health care provider about any medicine or drugs you are taking as certain medications — such as tranquilizers and drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease — can increase the risk of heat-related illness.
People suffering heatstroke can go from appearing normal to extremely ill in a matter of minutes. Victims may have hot, dry skin, a high body temperature of 106 degrees or more, an absence of sweat, and a rapid and strong pulse. Victims 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. 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.
People on medication-assisted treatment should not stop taking their medications before contacting the provider who prescribed them but should take precautions that can save their lives.
Every year, hundreds of pets also die from heat exhaustion because they are left in parked vehicles or outside too long. Symptoms of heat stress and heat stroke in pets may include heavy panting, dehydration, excess saliva, bluish-purple or bright red gums, rapid or irregular heart rate, muscle tremors, lack of coordination, unconsciousness, and high body temperature. Individuals should keep pets indoors and provide ample cool water and shade while they are outside. Pets should never be left unattended in vehicles during warm or hot weather. If a resident encounters a pet left in a car, they should contact police immediately and report the incident.