CARMEL, N.Y. - Summer is officially here and with it comes the possibility of soaring temperatures and high humidity. Staying cool and hydrated is the key to staying healthy and safe in a heatwave. A heat-related illness can affect anyone–even those who are young and physically fit, but those at highest risk are infants, young children and the elderly. During hot weather, especially when it lasts a few days or longer, outdoor activities are best done in the early morning or evening hours when it is coolest.

“Residents should be careful during any hot weather days. Watch out for your family. friends and neighbors, especially the elderly,” said County Executive MaryEllen Odell. “During extreme heat events, we have cooling centers opened during the day for our residents.”

A list of Putnam cooling center locations is posted online, along with the phone numbers you can call to check their hours of operation or check the health department website at health.ny.gov/environmental/weather/cooling/

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Heatstroke, which is also sometimes called sunstroke, is the most dangerous type of heat-related illness.

“Heatstroke actually causes several thousand deaths each year in the United States,” said Dr. Michael Nesheiwat, county commissioner of health. “When a person’s body temperature goes over 103 degrees F., all sorts of very serious problems can occur, including damage to your brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles. If you suspect someone has heatstroke, call 911 immediately. The longer treatment is delayed the higher the risk of serious complications or death. Before help arrives, move the person to a cooler location, out of the sun or into air conditioning, and lower the person’s temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath.”

In addition to a body temperature of 103 degrees or higher, symptoms of heatstroke include altered mental state or behavior, confusion, nausea, rapid breathing, racing heart or headache.

Heat exhaustion, although less severe than heat stroke, is another heat-related problem. Signs of this include cold, pale, clammy skin, dizziness, fainting, nausea, muscle cramps or headache.

“If you experience these symptoms, move to a cooler location and apply cool water to lower your temperature. With heat exhaustion, drink sips of water every 15 minutes for one hour,” Nesheiwat said.

Heat cramps or painful spasms in the legs and abdomen can also occur but are less severe. If a person is on a low-sodium diet or has heart problems, seek medical attention right away. Otherwise, drink sips of water every 15 minutes for one hour. If cramps don’t go away within one hour, seek medical care.

Take the following precautions to avoid problems in hot weather: Drink plenty of fluids and don’t wait to be thirsty to drink. Water is best because it replenishes your body’s natural fluids. Alcohol and very sugary drinks should be avoided because they dehydrate the body. Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and use a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher. Apply it 30 minutes before going out because a sunburn will affect the body’s ability to cool down. Stay indoors in a cool or air-conditioned place as much as possible. Never leave a person or pet in a parked vehicle, even if the windows are open or you think it may be only for a few minutes.

For more information on heat-related illness during prolonged periods of extreme temperatures, call the Putnam County Department of Health at 845-808-1390.

Cooling centers in Mahopac

Always call before you go to make sure the cooling center is open.

  • Mahopac Library, 668 Route 6, 845-628-2009
  • Temple Beth Shalom, 760 Route 6, 845-628-6133
  • William Koehler Memorial Senior Center, 180 Route 6, 845-808-1738

Article courtesy of Putnam County Health Department