Extreme temperatures of heat and cold can have dangerious affects not just on the elderly and the young, but also on anyone who does not take precaution to stay safe during these extreme temperature changes.
Hot Weather Tips When the county's Department of Health issues a heat advisory, many senior centers serve as cooling centers for Westchester seniors. (Call the site before going to confirm it is open.) The Health Department provides additional tips about staying safe in the sun.
Temperatures that hover 10 degrees or more above the average high temperature for the region and last for several weeks are defined as extreme heat. Humid or muggy conditions, which add to the discomfort of high temperatures, occur when a “dome” of high atmospheric pressure traps hazy, damp air near the ground. Droughts occur when a long period passes without substantial rainfall. A heat wave combined with a drought is a very dangerous situation.
Stay out of the sun — avoid extreme temperature changes.
Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors reflect some of the sun’s energy.
Drink fluids-particularly water-even if you do not feel thirsty. Your body needs water to keep cool. (Those on fluid-restricted diets or taking diuretics should first consult their physician.)
Water is the safest liquid to drink during heat emergencies. Avoid beverages containing alcohol and/or caffeine.
Eat small, frequent meals.
Avoid strenuous activity, especially during the sun’s peak hours (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
If possible, go to an air-conditioned building for several hours during the hottest parts of the day. Participate in activities that will keep you cool, such as going to the movies, shopping at a mall, or swimming at a pool or beach.
Never leave your children or pets unattended in the car.
Check on your elderly neighbors, and those with special needs.
Remember: Improperly opened hydrants waste thousands gallons of water and can lower water pressure to dangerous levels, thus hampering the Fire Department’s ability to fight fires and endangering the lives of your family and neighbors.
During periods of high temperatures, residents are asked to reduce power usage by turning off all non-essential appliances and electronic equipment. This will help manage the county's electric use. Westchester residents should follow these tips to minimize energy consumption during a heat emergency:
Do not leave air conditioners on when you leave your house.
Set your air conditioner thermostat at no less than 78 degrees.
Only use appliances that have heavy electrical loads early in the morning or very late at night.
Cold Weather Tips When temperatures start dropping below freezing and the wind chill factor adds to the frigid cold, here are tips to staying warm inside and outside and what to do if someone is negatively affected by the cold.
Inside your home:
Maintain a room temperature of at least 68 degrees during the day and evening and 63 degrees overnight.
It is dangerous to use an oven as a heating device to warm your home. All space heaters are a fire risk if used improperly.
Be aware of the elderly and disabled living alone. Offer assistance.
Wear layers of warm dry clothing. Dressing in several layers of loose-fitting clothing will create pockets of insulating warm air. Wet clothing negates the insulating effect so stay dry.
Wear wool or fleece fabrics, not cotton as it dries slowly; warm socks with a thermal sock liner; comfortable, closed shoes; a scarf, hat and earmuffs to prevent loss of body heat; a water repellent, hooded outer garment to add extra protection; and mittens instead of gloves to keep hands warm.
Cover exposed skin surfaces as protection from frostbite.
Walk around or move in place to increase circulation and generate additional body heat.
Seek shelter indoors periodically to warm up.
Cold Weather Dangers and Warning Signs:
Be aware of hypothermia, a potentially fatal condition brought on when the body temperature drops to less than 95 degrees Farenheit. Warning signs include uncontrollable shivering, stiff muscles, puffy face, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. If any of these signs are recognized, seek medical attention immediately or call 911.
Frostbite is damage to body tissue caused by exposure to extreme cold. Warning signs include a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose. To treat frostbite, warm the affected areas gradually by wrapping or placing next to warm skin. Do not rub the affected areas.
Drink warm, non-alcoholic beverages like tea, coffee, hot chocolate and soup. Drinking alcohol will cause a loss of body heat by dilating blood vessels.
Maintain good nutrition and get plenty of rest.
Prescription drugs may increase vulnerability to cold. Check with your doctor or pharmacist.
From November - March, Westchester County maintains warming centers for single individuals seeking shelter from the cold. Families seeking shelter after hours or during weekends should contact DSS Emergency Services at (914) 995-2099.