Severe Heat

With a heat wave gripping parts of the East Coast, the Valley Stream Emergency Management Office (VSEMO) is urging people to take special protective measures to reduce the dangers posed by prolonged periods of extreme heat.

"Doing too much on a hot day, spending too much time in the sun or staying too long in an overheated place can cause heat-related illnesses and possibly death," FEMA Director James Lee Witt said. "Special care should be taken to protect the elderly, young children and those with respiratory ailments. All residents should be aware of heat disorder symptoms, know where to seek help, and be ready to give first aid treatment."

To help reduce extreme heat risks, VSEMO offers the following safety tips:

  • Hang shades, draperies, awnings, or louvers on windows that receive morning or afternoon sun. Outdoor awnings or louvers can reduce the heat entering the house by as much as 80 percent.
  • Conserve electricity. During periods of extreme heat, people tend to use a lot more power for air conditioning which can lead to a power shortage or outage. Stay indoors as much as possible. If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine.
  • Eat well-balanced, light meals and drink plenty of water regularly.
  • Persons who have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease; are on fluid- restrictive diets; or have a problem with fluid retention should consult a doctor before increasing liquid intake.
  • Limit intake of alcoholic beverages. Although beer and alcohol beverages appear to satisfy thirst, they actually cause further body dehydration.
  • Dress in loose-fitting clothes that cover as much skin as possible. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing that reflects heat and sunlight and helps maintain normal body temperature.
  • Protect face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Allow your body to get acclimated to hot temperatures for the first 2 or 3 days of a heat wave.
  • Avoid too much sunshine. Sunburn slows the skin's ability to cool itself. Use a sunscreen lotion with a high SPF (sun protection factor) rating.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes. A cool shower immediately after coming in from hot temperatures can result in hypothermia, particularly for elderly and very young people.
  • Slow down. Reduce, eliminate, or reschedule strenuous activities. High-risk individuals should stay in cool places. Get plenty of rest to allow your natural "cooling system" to work. Take salt tablets only if specified by your physician.
  • Vacuum or replace (as appropriate) air conditioner filters weekly during periods of high use.


  • Sunburn
    Symptoms: Skin redness and pain, possible swelling, blisters, fever, headaches.

    First Aid: Take a shower, using soap, to remove oils that may block pores preventing the body from cooling naturally. If blisters occur, apply dry, sterile dressings and get medical attention.

  • Heat Cramps

    Symptoms: Painful spasms usually in leg and abdominal muscles. Heavy sweating.

    First Aid: Firm pressure on cramping muscles or gentle massage to relieve spasm. Give sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue.

  • Heat Exhaustion

    Symptoms: Heavy sweating, weakness. Cold, pale or clammy skin. Weak pulse. Normal temperature possible. Fainting, vomiting.

    First Aid: Lie victim down in a cool place and loosen clothing. Apply cool, wet cloths. Fan or move victim to air-conditioned place. Give sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue. If vomiting occurs, seek immediate medical attention.

  • Heat Stroke (Sun Stroke)

    Symptoms: High body temperature (106+). Hot, dry skin. Rapid, strong pulse. Possible unconsciousness. Victim will likely not sweat.

    First Aid: Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency. Use extreme caution. Call 9-1-1 or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal. Remove clothing and move victim to a cooler environment. Use fans and/or air conditioners. Try a cool bath or sponging to reduce body temperature. DO NOT GIVE FLUIDS.

For more information on extreme heat safeguards, contact your local American Red Cross.