We’ve finally hit August, when the dog days of summer are usually most fierce. Which means breathing stale air on boiling subway station platforms before packing ourselves like sardines into trains with other sweaty, cranky people.

All of this is the annoying reality of city living, but there are serious health consequences linked to extreme heat. We reached out to Dr. Peter Shearer, medical director of Mount Sinai Hospital’s emergency department, to find out how to spot the signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke, and what to do if it happens to you.

What’s the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke? 

In both, your body has excessive heat either from the environment (hot, humid day, sun exposure, etc.) or generated from something like exercise.   In heat stroke you have lost your body’s ability to regulate temperature mostly through sweating and evaporation and developed mental status changes.

Who is most at risk?

People at the extremes of age (younger than 1 year and elderly) and those with multiple medical problems. People need to be able to move to a place where they can keep cool. Babies and those who are frail, elderly or with mobility issues may not be able to do this.

What steps can you take to reduce your chances of getting either of these?

Stay hydrated. Remove yourself from situations that lead to it — stay in the shade, stay in areas with good air circulation (convection, which can help dispel heat); stay in a cool environment.

What about pets such as dogs or cats? Which signs should you watch for in extreme heat?

Pets may exhibit the same symptoms as people, but with drooling in place of sweating.  Keep an eye on their urine output during hot weather, especially when outside. Excessive lethargy would be a key symptom of heat stroke in a pet. 

You have medical questions? We have answers. Metro is teaming up with the experts at the esteemed Mount Sinai Health System to provide answers to your most pressing medical concerns. Send us an email at askmtsinai@metro.us. We’ll select one question and publish an answer every other week.