Experts offer steps you can take to stay safe as temperatures rise
MONDAY, July 1, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Temperatures topping 110 and even 120 degrees Fahrenheit have much of the American West sweltering, and health officials are warning that people must do what they can to stay cool as the heat wave continues.
Temperatures in California's Death Valley hit 128 degrees on Sunday, NBC News reported, tying the record for the hottest June day anywhere in the United States. Thermometers soared to 117 on Sunday in Las Vegas, only the third time that's happened since the National Weather Service has kept records. By 1 a.m. Monday morning, Las Vegas was still baking at 102 degrees.
Residents of Phoenix were faced with punishing 119 degree-heat on Saturday, a record according to Weather.com, and Salt Lake City sweltered under 105 degree-temperatures for two days in a row -- a record-breaker for that city in June), NBC said.
In Yarnell, Ariz., 19 firefighters perished battling a wildfire that experts say has been encouraged by high temperatures and windy conditions, CBS News/Associated Press reported. It's one of the deadliest wildfires involving firefighters in decades, and is still raging out of control.
One man in Las Vegas died due to heat-related causes and another was hospitalized Saturday, authorities said. In both cases, the men were found without working air conditioning.
The heat wave will ebb slowly but is expected to last for the next few days, meteorologists said.
Health experts said there are key steps everyone can take to minimize their risk from extreme heat.
One essential step: Check up on elderly or ill relatives living on their own.
"Due to various reasons, the elderly are prone to suffer from the extreme heat," said Dr. Salvatore Pardo, associate chairman of the emergency department at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y.
"It is vital for loved ones and friendly neighbors to enter the home and make sure they have functioning air conditioning or access to a cool environment -- for example, a cooling center, senior center, public shopping mall -- during extreme heat events," he said. "This should be done at the beginning, during and after the extreme heat event."
Dr. Michael Ammazzalorso, chief medical officer at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y., offered up other potentially lifesaving tips.
Keeping the shades drawn in the daytime can keep homes cooler, he said, and "if you live in a split-level home, stay downstairs. Heat rises, so upstairs will always be hotter than your living room. Open windows upstairs if you have no air conditioning to keep the room cool and have a fan blowing."
Alcoholic beverages dehydrate, so stick to water or beverages without alcohol, sugar or caffeine, Ammazzalorso said. Wear light, light-colored and loose clothing to stay cooler.
"Let the children play outside in the early morning or early evening when the air quality is at a healthier level and the temperatures are cooler," he added. "Head to a local swimming pool or beach to cool off, but never swim alone and be sure to observe all posted swimming advisories."
According to Ammazzalorso, signs of heat exhaustion include skin that is cool, moist and pale but may look flushed at times. Dizziness or fainting, nausea or vomiting, fatigue and headaches are also potential signs of heat exhaustion.
Signs of an even more serious condition known as heat stroke include red, hot and dry skin, high body temperatures (105 degrees or above), a rapid and weak pulse, rapid and shallow breathing and changes in consciousness. In these cases, 911 should be dialed immediately, Ammazzalorso said.
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency has more about extreme heat (http://www.ready.gov/heat ).
SOURCES: NBC News, CBS/AP; Salvatore Pardo, M.D., associate chairman, emergency department, Long Island Jewish Medical Center, New Hyde Park, N.Y.; Michael Ammazzalorso, M.D., chief medical officer, Winthrop-University Hospital, Mineola, N.Y.