What You Need To Know About the Heat and Your Health

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

air conditioners air conditioning Brooklyn heights heat wave Health officials say the elderly and others with chronic conditions should be in a cool, air-conditioned place during heat waves. (Bondidwhat/BonnieNatko/flickr)

We're experiencing our first heat wave of the summer, with temperatures and heat indexes approaching triple digits throughout the week. Dr. Jeremy Sperling, Associate Director of the Emergency Department at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell, answers the frequently asked questions about how to stay safe in elevated temperatures.

Heat Wave Resources 

Find a Cooling Center | Tips to Beat the HeatGuide to Heat Related Illness | Pets and HeatNWS Forecast for the Area


Dr. Jeremy Sperling
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Comments [13]

Bobby from Brooklyn

Seems Help Tip #1 might need some revision.
"The Claim: Caffeine Causes Dehydration"
The findings? No good evidence to think that it does. Surprised that Brian's guest stated otherwise.

And this study concluded "These results suggest that the diuretic action of alcohol is blunted when the body is hypohydrated". The details show that drinking 1 liter of beer while dehydrated does not significantly elevate the amount of urine produced (when compared to drinking 1 liter of a non-aloholic drink).

Jul. 17 2013 08:55 AM
Tom from Manhattan

All this concern about heat yet Historic Preservation forbids widow AC if building renovates. This leaves only portables which are expensive and inefficient. I am 70 and live on top floor of Village building that reaches very high temperatures and because of wiring and venting issues have not been able to get set up properly. How can the make this horrible choice unknown to the public? This situation is untenable for the old and poor in rent stabilized buildings where the landlord and Historic Preservation care only of superficiality and monetary costs. If I could afford to I would move out of my home for 38 yes in a flash.

Jul. 16 2013 11:38 PM
Melissa Callahan-Whelan from Red Hook Brooklyn

I agree: the use of the AC often does more harm than good. It does not allow us the ability to acclimate to the temps, it uses far too much power and isolates us even more. While temps have been rising lately, so has BMI and poor health habits. If we paid more attention to our overall health, lost weight [fat] and were generally healthier, we would be able to tolerate higher temps more effectively. If we spent more time outside away from the TV and the AC, we would also have fewer power issues. I have plenty or AC opportunities and I avoid it unless necessary, being in the heat keeps me honest. Keeping an eye on those more vulnerable than us is a responsibility during weather like this, but prevention and preparation go a long way as well.

Jul. 16 2013 09:36 PM

@ Michael P. Gaugham:

Good points.

I would add:

1.) People should at the very least use /less/ air-conditioning-- raise the thermostat, take advantage of fans, esp. ceiling fans, to maximize the air-circulation, etc.

2.) Dehumidification is still important -- at least according to the "Gurus of How-To" (Al and Larry Ubell). A number of portable air-conditioners have dehumidify-only settings.

Jul. 16 2013 10:46 AM

@Ed 10:17 a.m.: Sleeping on fire-escapes (and unsafe roofs) is extremely dangerous.

Edward P. Kohn, author of 'Hot Time in the Old Town':

"During the summer of 1896, a 10-day heat wave killed nearly 1,500 people, many of them tenement-dwellers, across New York City."
"Inevitably, somebody would fall asleep or get drunk, roll off the top of a five-story tenement, crash into the courtyard below and be killed. You'd have children who would go to sleep on fire escapes and fall off and break their legs or be killed. People [tried] to go down to the piers on the East River and sleep there, out in the open — and would roll into the river and drown."

I remember hearing Kohn on Fresh Air and, if I recall correctly, at least one other WNYC and/or NPR show as well.

Jul. 16 2013 10:36 AM
Michael P. Gaugham from Brooklyn

This Doctor is drinking the Freon. Air-conitioning has its place in this weather, (Sleeping and doing any kind of mental work and the elderly) BUT his repeated urging to seek air-conditioning leads to an mental inability to cope with heat. This can contribute to obesity in children.

I spent the summer when I was 16 in air-conditioning and lost a summer. After that year I said F THIS and got a summer job on an plant nursery and to this day, I use an air-conditioner only to sleep and do mental work. I ride a bike all year. Rain or snow being the exception

Brian continue to comute by Bike. You are riding before the hottest part of the day when you go in and I know that your day does not end at 12P.

Yes Elderly people should seek air-conditioning where available, BUT everyone else get out in the weather and get used to it. We lived without air-conitioning for centuries!

Jul. 16 2013 10:33 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Is it the caffeine in coffee or something else that makes people urinate more? Does tea have the same effect?

And I thought the idea behind drinking hot beverages in hot weather was that they make you sweat & that cools you down.

I used to work in a gov't. building that wasn't air conditioned, & I found that wetting a bandana & draping it around my neck made me feel much more comfortable, although I don't know if it can help prevent health problems.

Jul. 16 2013 10:20 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

NYC Cooling Centers

Sleeping on the Fire Escape

Jul. 16 2013 10:17 AM
Derek from Brooklyn

In Asian cultures there is a long history of drinking hot tea in all temperatures even when it's very hot. Brian mentioned another listener said something to this effect - in order to feel cooler drink something hot. I think there is something to this after trying it myself. I still like to have cool drinks however since I have been used to it as a westerner, but there is definitely something to this longstanding tradition I believe.

Jul. 16 2013 10:14 AM

se asians eat hot, spicy foods early in the morning, use fans, worship shade trees, and take a snooze in the middle of the day.

importantly, they also shed their body fat.

Jul. 16 2013 10:11 AM
Sarah from NYC

More about electrolytes, please? I have no interest in the sports drinks (money and taste), is there a way to create my own? Does oranges/lemons/honey/a little salt in distilled water do it?

Or is the whole electrolytic thing--if you're not very young or exercising--more advertising hype?

Jul. 16 2013 10:11 AM
John A

I am amazed what a good supply of drinking water and an electric fan can do. Man was around more than a million years before the AirConditioner. Meanwhile A/C's use record amounts of electricity, whose generation causes even more heat. Break the cycle I say.

Jul. 16 2013 09:42 AM
No AC from NYC

I don't own an AC.
I take multiple cooling showers but even those wear off after an hour of so of constant exposure to this heat.
This summer was been the hottest I can remember in my many years in nyc.
I recall soaring heat temperatures in the past, but they were brief and farther apart during the summer.
It seems the summer has gotten much more server and lasts longer into the so-called Autumn months. I sometimes wonder why the outdoor public pools have to close after Labor Day, when this hear continues to linger much longer after September even October.

Jul. 16 2013 09:33 AM

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