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How to stay safe – and cool – when it's hot in NYC

From a doctor’s advice to a cooling mattress and knowing the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, we’ll help you beat the heat.

With New York City under yet another heat advisory until Tuesday evening, not only is it miserable to be traversing through the streets and subway system (or at least even worse than normal), it can also be downright dangerous.

Today is set to be another scorcher, with temperatures expected to reach 93, so Metro spoke with Dr. Lawrence Phillips, a cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Health, to find the best ways to beat the heat and stay safe from heat exhaustion and heat stroke – and to clarify the differences between the two.

Metro: I have to ask, is it hot enough for you?

Dr. Lawrence Phillips: [Laughs] Walking from hospital to hospital, I’m having my fill.

What is the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke?

As the body starts losing the battle to fight the heat, it reaches the heat exhaustion stage. If you’re not treating it at that point, you go from the heat exhaustion stage to heat stroke, which is an emergency.

What are the signs of heat exhaustion?

Because it’s an imbalance from the heat and the body’s reaction, some symptoms are a fast pulse, extreme sweating, redness or flushness to the skin – a headache can develop and, as it gets worse, nausea and muscle aches.

What are the signs of heat stroke?

Seizures, passing out, mental status changes, agitation or confusion. It’s a medical emergency that it’s not enough to get the person out of the heat, you want to get medical care. It’s going to be worsening of nausea and muscle aches.

In addition, if someone’s out in the heat, and they’re sweating a lot, and all of a sudden, they stop sweating, it suggests that the body’s response to heat has suddenly run out. The body now has gone from being able to sweat to cool down to protective mode.

Who is most at-risk for heat-related emergencies?

We worry about patients over the age of 65. People in their 60s, 70s and 80s – their response to heat has diminished, so they’re not able to normalize their temperatures like someone in their 20s or 30s.

People who have chronic conditions are going to be at risk of developing heat exhaustion. In my practice, we’re dealing with patients with heart disease; they’re not able to respond as well, and they’re on medications that might impact their ability to respond to the heat.

Your readers should make sure that they have these discussions with their doctors on how to respond to different weather changes.

What are things New Yorkers can do if stuck on the subway or a subway platform during heat waves?

Their health should be primary. If they’re in a crowded subway station for a long period of time, and they feel they’re getting overheated or their pulse is increasing or they feel nauseous, get out of the subway station.

Positional changes make a difference, hand-held fans help circulate air, keep hydrated — keep a bottle of water with you when you’re on the subway.

Is water truly the best?

Water is very important, but it’s not always going to be enough when you’re sweating a lot because you’re losing water and salt. Mix up different drinks, but be careful with caffeine.

What about people who work outside or still want to exercise?

If you can’t avoid being outside, you want to mix up your time in the sun and find shade. Take frequent breaks and get into indoor spaces, especially if they’re air-conditioned, and stay hydrated if you’re out in the sun.

For both groups of people, you want to look at yourself and friends and colleagues around you for signs that the heat is having an impact on them. Don’t be afraid to tell them they’re looking flushed and sweating, and maybe they need to take a break.

What’s your favorite way to beat the heat in New York City?

I spend a lot of time in the hospital, and we’re well air-conditioned. [Laughs]

How to keep your cool during a heat wave

If you’re stuck on a train or platform, or you just have had it up to here with back sweat, here are other ways to keep cool and beat what seems like this summer’s never-ending heat.

• Throw on your bathing suit and get thee to the nearest public pool, beach or splash pad, and dive in ASAP if not sooner.

• If you want to head to one of the city’s many parks, Dr. Phillips suggests wearing light and light-colored clothing – and know your limits.

• If your home doesn’t have air conditioning, the city has dozens of “cooling centers,” and one is bound to be near you. Visit nyc.gov or call 311 for locations.

• Visit your local firehouse to get a hydrant spray cap to really get that true summer-in-NYC experience – without wasting a lot of water. (You must be at least 18 with a valid ID.)

• New York City has tons of movie theaters that are sure to show something that’ll suit your celluloid fancy – and air conditioning is included in the ticket price, so it’s win-win

• National Ice Cream Day was this week, but do you ever really need a reason to visit one of the city’s amazing ice cream shops?

• Coco-Mat, a natural mattress brand with four stores in New York City that counts celebs like John Legend and Chrissy Teigen among its star clients, just launched new colors for one of its best-selling beds, the Proteas. The metal-free mattress is made with natural latex, coco fiber and seaweed to soothe your respiratory system and, most importantly in this ridiculous weather, cactus fiber, which helps regulate humidity to keep you cool. As if we needed another reason to stay in bed, amiright?

 
 
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