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How to stay cool during this hot Pittsburgh summer

The first day of summer and father's day combine to make a fountain on the Northside of Pittsburgh the perfect place to cool off Sunday, June 21, 2015.
Gene J. Puskar
The first day of summer and father's day combine to make a fountain on the Northside of Pittsburgh the perfect place to cool off Sunday, June 21, 2015.

High temperatures are a big concern for health experts as heat waves take place in major cities worldwide.

Temperatures are bound to rise in the summer, but climate experts and researchers say that the dangerous heat waves will grow in intensity and frequency as the season progresses. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, an estimated 1,300 people die each year due to extreme heat.

Who is most at risk?

Older adults and young children are most at risk for heat-related illnesses, according to Dr. Barbara Nightingale, Allegheny County Health Department deputy director for clinical services.

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“These groups tend to be less likely or willing to notice and react to changes in temperature or the development of heat-related illness,” she said. “Small children’s bodies are not able to regulate temperature as well as others.”

People with chronic illnesses, those who work outside and athletes are also at an increased risk. Nightingale said too much physical exertion increases the chances of dehydration and hyperthermia, which means the body’s heat-regulating abilities don’t work correctly.

When it’s this hot, experts recommend drinking lots of water and limiting outdoor access for pets.

What to watch out for

Heat-related illnesses come with a variety of symptoms, so it’s important to know what to watch for. Early symptoms include weakness, tiredness, mental confusion and headaches. It’s also important to regulate internal body temperature, as anything above a 102 may indicate that someone is experiencing heat stroke. The skin can feel cool and clammy in some cases of heat exhaustion.

“You may also feel like you are getting sick, with fever, nausea/vomiting or extreme tiredness,” said Dr. Pamela Schoemer, a pediatrician at UPMC Children’s Community Pediatrics. “If someone develops hot, flushed skin with a higher fever, decreased sweating, faster breathing, confusion or is difficult to arouse, they should seek medical attention.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you should call 911, move the person experiencing heat stroke to a cool place and lower their body temperature by placing the person in a cool bath or applying cool rags.

“If you or someone is overheated, cool off gradually,” Schoemer said. “Abrupt changes can be harmful, too.”

What about COVID-19?

As the pandemic continues, many have preferred to gather with friends and family outdoors. But when it’s extremely hot, it’s more comfortable to stay cool inside. That could mean an increased risk of spreading the coronavirus, according to Nightingale.

“Sticking to smaller gatherings or remaining cool at home might be a better choice for some, especially those who are immunocompromised or at higher risk of contracting the virus,” Nightingale said.

For many people,heat risks may increase due to COVID exposure or extended sickness.

Local resources

Pittsburgh’s communities offer a variety of resources for residents looking to stay cool.

Pittsburgh’s city pools will open Saturday, June 18. CitiParks offers free Spray Parks and Playgrounds.

Pittsburgh also offers cooling centers throughout the city.

  • Greenfield at 745 Greenfield Avenue
  • Homewood at 7321 Frankstown Road
  • Sheraden at 720 Sherwood Avenue
  • South Side Market House at 12th and Bingham Streets
Ebonee Rice-Nguyen is the summer intern for 90.5 WESA with an interest in culture, social media, and race relations. Rice is a current Junior at the University of Pittsburgh studying English Writing, Political Science and Gender Studies.