Living without heat for prolonged times can cause hypothermia and worsen heart disease and other medical problems.
People at greatest risk to the cold include families with infants, the elderly, people with chronic diseases, and people with mental illness or substance abuse problems. These groups should move now to heated temporary locations until their building services are restored. Even young healthy people should consider moving if their heat will not be restored very soon.
What You Should Know
Prolonged exposure to cold and damp conditions can cause:
- Hypothermia, or very low body temperature. It occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Hypothermia can happen gradually and without the person realizing how serious it is. Hypothermia can be fatal and can increase the risk of dying from other illnesses.
- Symptoms include uncontrollable shivering, weakness, sleepiness, confusion, and lack of coordination.
- In infants, signs may include cold, bright red skin, and very low energy.
- Worsening of asthma and other lung conditions as well as increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Carbon monoxide poisoning among those trying to stay warm by using ovens, stoves, portable gas heaters or barbeque grills. It is called the “silent killer” because it is odorless.
- Symptoms include sleepiness, dizziness, headaches, confusion and weakness.
- Fires from improper heat sources or faulty electric space heaters or blankets.
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What You Should Do
- If your heat will not be restored soon, it is best to relocate. The City of New York has programs in place to relocate you to a safe, warm place.
- If you remain in a cold home:
- Wear layers of dry, loose-fitting clothing. Keep head, hands and feet covered.
- Consume hot food and drinks but avoid alcohol.
- If you have electricity, use an electric heater or blanket that has been safety tested (look for a Underwriters Laboratories or UL label)
- Never use stoves, ovens or other heat sources to stay warm.
- Beware of symptoms of hypothermia. If you suspect hypothermia, call 911 immediately.
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NYC Restoration Centers help New Yorkers provide information on the NYC Rapid Repairs program, food and nutrition assistance, temporary housing information, health and medical benefits information, counseling, and other services. You also can pick up a free N95 dust mask there.
NYC Rapid Repairs is a free program to help residential property owners affected by Hurricane Sandy make emergency repairs, including permanent or temporary restoration of heat, power, and hot water, and other limited repairs to protect the home from further significant damage.
For more information, call 311 or visit nyc.gov.
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