Feelin' like a big hot mess? Here's where to chillax
It really is the humidity.
Thirty New York City residents died from heat-related deaths in 2011 (the last year for which numbers were available), according to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
At least some of those deaths were aggravated by the typically high humidity that afflicts NYC when the mercury soars. When both temps and humidity are high, the body can't cool itself down as effectively as it can in dry air, explained Dr. Tanveer Mir, director of outpatient palliative care at NYU Cancer Institute. High humidity makes it more likely you will sustain "heat injury," - which can range from lassitude and dehydration, to death.
First comes heat exhaustion (lethargy and dehydration). If you fail then to hydrate and cool down, you may get heat cramps (severe muscle cramps in the larger muscles of the body). A heat "attack," or heat stroke occurs when the body's core temperature reaches 104 or 105 and can occur in conjunction with dizziness and confusion. "Mild forms of heat exhaustion and heat cramps are reversible," but the liver, kidney, and brain damage, electrolyte imbalance and coagulating disorders caused in heat stroke may not be, said Mir. Once you're in heat stroke, "there is a 23 - 66% percent chance of death, depending on the availability of cooling mechanisms" to restore the body to normal temperature, she added.
"Prevention is so much better than cure," when it comes to avoiding thermal injury, said Mir. Do that by ditching your iced lattes ("caffeine is a diuretic and you wind up losing more water than you drink") for plain water or an electrolyte-crammed sports drink such as Gatorade. Dress in cool cottons (synthetics and silks don't allow the skin to breathe) and seek out the sanctuary of cool, air conditioned environments. Fans are no match for humid heat waves, so that means getting into a place with air conditioners and can dramatically lower the body temp.
Here are some unsweltering sanctuaries to check out:
Cooling Centers: When the heat index soars to dangerous levels, NYC opens air conditioned cooling centers in various senior and community centers and libraries. Find the one nearest you by calling 311 or going to http://www.nyc.gov/html/oem/html/hazards/heat_cooling.shtml
The City Ice Pavilion, 47-32 32nd Pl.: The giant bubble in Long Island City Queens has public ice skating Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 1:30 to 3:50 p.m., Wednesdays noon to 3:50 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays noon to 5:20 p.m. It's actually much more comfortable to skate in the summer, as the air inside now is a temperate 65 degrees or so. "But its cooler than it is outside, because you have the ice radiating up," as a worker explained. Find the Pavilion near the 33rd and Rawson stop on the 7 train. Check the website www.cityicepavilion.com, for prices and info on classes and hockey leagues.
The penguin house at the Wildlife Conservation Societies Central Park Zoo: Think global warming sucks for you? Get hyped to do something about it while watching the King, Chinstrap and Gentoo penguins cavort in an artificially created habitat. In the wild, their siblings have had their nesting sites swamped and food supplies reduced as a result of melting in the Antarctic. Save $2 off the zoo's standard $18 adult admission fee by booking your tickets here: http://www.centralparkzoo.com/cpz-ticket-discount/
The Big Apple Meat Market: Everyone knows about the vaunted "cold rooms" at Fairway markets, where customers are given coats to steel themselves against the frost (www.fairwaymarket.com) But The Big Apple Meat Market emporium also has a cold room for meat and dairy that's kept around 25 degrees, and the best prices on groceries anywhere in Midtown. Big Apple doesn't have a website yet (what do you expect at these prices?), but you can stop by the store at 529 Ninth Ave. between W. 39th and W. 40th Sts. - or huddle by the dairy case of your local grocery store.
Department Stores: Chillax while shopping for your autumn wardrobe by immersing yourself in a department store's soothingly temperate micro climate. Virtually all the big department stores -Macy's, Saks, Lord & Taylor, Bergdorf Goodman and off price retailers such as Marshall's - boast premium a.c. systems. That's because consumer psychologists know that the more comfortable a customer is in a store, the longer she stays there. The longer she stays, the more she spends.
The Hispanic Society of America Museum and Library: Located on Audubon Terrace Broadway between 155th and 156th Streets on Broadway, The Hispanic Society's collections are not only free, but one of the city's overlooked astonishing jewels. You can visit any of the city's many temperature-controlled museums to cool off, but The Hispanic Society, with its exquisite tombs from the monastery of San Francisco de Cuellar and its impressive collections of El Greco and Goya, has a truly cool, old world ambience, and is free of haste and crowds. http://www.hispanicsociety.org/