Eastern part of country still in its grip; experts offer safety advice
TUESDAY, July 26, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- The massive "heat dome" that has blanketed the eastern United States with oppressive heat and humidity for days will not be budging before the end of the week, weather forecasters said Tuesday.
"With no strong pushes of cool air from Canada on the horizon, people from the mid-Atlantic to the Deep South can expect virtually no relief from the high heat and humidity," said AccuWeather meteorologist Kyle Elliott.
The Pacific Northwest will not be spared soaring temperatures either, as dangerous heat barrels northward from the Southwest. The core of that heat had covered the southwestern part of the country for much of July, but it will shift toward the states of Washington and Oregon this week, according to AccuWeather.
Later this week, temperatures will be 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit above average in cities like Seattle and Portland, and 100 degrees Fahrenheit is a distinct possibility in some areas of the Northwest, the weather service added.
In light of the lingering heat over much of the country, experts offered these tips on how to stay cool, and healthy, in the sweltering weather.
"The heat can be dangerous for your heart. Be careful during this time," said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of women's heart health at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City. "Make sure you stay hydrated and drink enough water. Stay in the shade or indoors with air conditioning if possible."
She added, "Take [the heat wave] seriously. Dehydration can be a critical issue for not only your heart, but can affect your whole body."
One expert noted that certain groups are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses.
"Some people at especially high risk for heat injury include those under 2 and over 65, as well as those with chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and emphysema [COPD]," said Dr. Michael Grosso, medical director at Northwell Health's Huntington Hospital, in Huntington, N.Y.
In this kind of hot weather, drink water regularly, and before you actually feel thirsty, he stressed. Wearing light, loose-fitting clothing also helps, as well as pacing your activity during the day.
Grosso also suggested people avoid cooking in their homes and that they take cool baths or showers if they get overheated.
Another expert noted that heat-related illnesses are more common than many think.
"Although preventable, many heat-related illnesses, including deaths, occur annually. Older adults, infants and children, and people with chronic medical conditions are particularly susceptible," said Dr. Barry Rosenthal. He is chair of the department of emergency medicine at Winthrop-University Hospital, in Mineola, N.Y.
"However, even young and healthy individuals can succumb to the heat if one does not take appropriate precautions," he added.
Rosenthal outlined how to reduce the risk of heat-related illnesses during hot weather. One of the best ways is to be in an air-conditioned building. If your home doesn't have air conditioning, go to a cooling center or an air-conditioned public place such as a library or shopping mall.
Also, ask your doctor or pharmacist if any medications you're taking increase your risk of heat-related illness. For example, diuretics (water pills) can pose a risk during hot weather. If you're taking a medication that raises the risk of heat-related problems, ask your doctor if there are additional steps you need to take to reduce the risk.
If possible, limit strenuous outdoor activity and exercise to early morning or evening, when temperatures are lower. Monitor local news and weather channels or contact your local public health department during extreme heat for health and safety updates.
Check on people who are at increased risk for heat-related illnesses, such as elderly loved ones and neighbors.
"At first signs of heat illness -- dizziness, nausea, headaches, muscle cramps -- move to a cooler place, rest a few minutes, then slowly drink a cool beverage. Seek medical attention immediately if conditions do not improve," Rosenthal said.
Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more on the dangers of extreme heat.