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Summer Safety

The summer months in the New York metropolitan area are a wonderful time to enjoy the outdoors: the excitement of street fairs, concerts in the parks, art shows lining local streets, the sweet smell of roasted nuts and the familiar sound of bells ringing on ice cream trucks.


However, the summer heat and humidity can be dangerous to us all, especially the elderly, if we don’t heed the warning signs of heat-related illnesses. And remember, extreme heat adversely affects a person’s medical problems such as high blood pressure, heart problems and respiratory ailments.

Heat-Related Illnesses

Heat Exhaustion: This illness occurs when a person who is exposed to too much hot weather becomes dehydrated and can no longer maintain a normal body temperature.

  • Symptoms - headache, nausea, dizziness, fainting, cool and clammy skin, cramps, weakness, profuse perspiration.
  • Treatment - Move to a cooler location and drink water. Loosen the person’s clothing and apply cool, wet cloths to their neck, face and arms. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.

Heat Stroke or Sun Stroke: A life-threatening illness where a person’s body is no longer able to maintain control of its core temperature.

  • Symptoms - Headache, nausea, flushed, hot and dry skin, no perspiration, body temperature over 101o F, chills, weak or rapid pulse, confusion and even unconsciousness.
  • Treatment - Call 911 immediately. Heat stroke is life-threatening and can result in death in fewer than 10 minutes. Cool person’s body by wrapping it in wet sheets and fanning it. Keep person lying down and as cool as possible. Do not give the person fluids.

Food Poisoning: There are two reasons food poisoning strikes more often during the summer: bacteria grows faster in warm, humid weather; and people eat outdoors at picnics, barbeques, and on camping trips, away from the safer confines of their home kitchen.

  • Symptoms - Diarrhea, vomiting, fever, cramps, and nausea usually occurs within 48 hours of eating or drinking contaminated food or drink.

How to Avoid Food Poisoning Outdoors

  • Keep perishables in an ice chest.
  • Wash hands frequently when handling food; use sanitizing liquid and wipes if water isn’t available.
  • Cook meats and chicken to a safe internal temperature.
  • Put leftovers back into the ice chest immediately after eating.
  • Put freshly caught fish on ice immediately after cleaning.

Protecting Yourself Against the Sun

  • Avoid being in the sun whenever possible, especially during the hours of 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
  • Wear sunscreen with a SPF of at least 15.
  • Wear a hat, and light colored and loose fitting clothing that covers your skin as much as possible.
  • Drink water or sport drinks to avoid dehydration. Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
  • Stay indoors in an air-conditioned place. If your home is not air conditioned, use several fans to cool your home and yourself, or go to a shopping mall, library or cooling center (senior center or community center). To find one in your area, dial 311.

Ozone-Polluted Air

Ozone, a major component of smog, is created when sunlight reacts with chemicals found in the city’s air. At high levels, it can affect a person’s respiratory function. Weather reports usually warn people at risk to stay indoors when the levels become dangerously high.

Preparing For Power Outages

In case of a summer blackout, you should have an emergency supply kit containing a flashlight, battery-powered radio and hand fan, extra batteries, first aid kit and bottled water.

Also, having a supply of canned foods may come in handy in case the outage lasts more than a few hours. Make sure to open your windows if your home is not air-conditioned.


For more information about summer safety, listed below are a few resources available to you:

New York City Office of Emergency Management
311 (TTY: 212-504-4115)

American Red Cross in Greater New York

CenterLight Health System