-- Robin Foster
FRIDAY, July 19 (HealthDay News) -- People living in the Midwest
and Northeast will have to weather one more day of scorching
temperatures and withering humidity before a massive heat wave
finally moves out and cooler air moves in on Saturday, U.S.
meteorologists said Friday.
The largest heat wave of the summer has parked itself over much
of the United States for most of the week, with sizzling
temperatures and high humidity levels making life miserable for
On Thursday, every state but Alaska posted temperatures of 90
degrees or higher. Conditions are expected to peak on Friday,
USA Today, with heat advisories and warnings in effect for
23 states, and the 141 million people living in them.
In Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia, the heat index
hit 106 degrees on Thursday, the
Associated Pressreported. The heat index gauges what the
temperature actually feels like after factoring in the humidity
Part of the reason the heat wave hovered in place for so long
was that it initially was moving backwards, or westward, and
stalled when it hit an approaching Canadian cold front, the
Most weather systems move west to east across the United States,
but this system moved in the opposite direction, Jon Gottschalck,
operations chief at the National Weather Service's prediction
branch, told the wire service.
"It's definitely unusual and going the wrong way," Gottschalck said Thursday. "This is pretty rare."
Until the cold front, and its accompanying severe thunderstorms
and possible tornadoes, arrives Saturday, health experts said there
are steps everyone can take to minimize their risk from extreme
One essential step: Check up on elderly or ill relatives living
on their own.
"Due to various reasons, the elderly are prone to suffer from the extreme heat," said Dr. Salvatore Pardo, associate chairman of the emergency department at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y.
"It is vital for loved ones and friendly neighbors to enter the home and make sure they have functioning air conditioning or access to a cool environment -- for example, a cooling center, senior center, public shopping mall -- during extreme heat events," he said. "This should be done at the beginning, during and after the extreme heat event."
Dr. Michael Ammazzalorso, chief medical officer at
Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y., offered other
potentially lifesaving tips.
Keeping the shades drawn in the daytime can keep homes cooler,
he said, and "if you live in a split-level home, stay downstairs.
Heat rises, so upstairs will always be hotter than your living
room. Open windows upstairs if you have no air conditioning to keep
the room cool, and have a fan blowing."
Alcoholic beverages dehydrate, so stick to water or beverages
without alcohol, sugar or caffeine, Ammazzalorso said. Wear light,
light-colored and loose clothing to stay cooler.
"Let the children play outside in the early morning or early evening when the air quality is at a healthier level and the temperatures are cooler," he added. "Head to a local swimming pool or beach to cool off, but never swim alone and be sure to observe all posted swimming advisories."
According to Ammazzalorso, signs of heat exhaustion include skin
that is cool, moist and pale but may look flushed at times.
Dizziness or fainting, nausea or vomiting, fatigue and headaches
are also potential signs of heat exhaustion.
Symptoms of an even more serious condition known as heat stroke
include red, hot and dry skin, high body temperatures (105 degrees
or above), a rapid and weak pulse, rapid and shallow breathing and
changes in consciousness. In these cases, call 911 immediately,
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency has more about
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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