Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

Photo: Steve Evans

I feel like Daisy from John Harbison’s opera The Great Gatsby during that scene where she sang with her girlfriends the refrain “It’s hot, it’s hot, it’s hot.” They looked so hot on stage even while they were fanning and fanning; enough so that I could feel that humid heat. Now Daisy was from Louisville, where I spent many years, and both Daisy and I know what hot is.  But when it gets hot here in the city and on the island in East Egg, it is another kind of heat altogether.

The heat in the city is captured between the high buildings and rises from the softening black asphalt in a way that reminds any God-fearing person of what Hell might be like. There is no wind and the humidity is staggering. I hear from friends who are lucky enough to be out east that even there, with the ocean nearby, the heat has been oppressive.

We have been warned by city agencies to keep the blinds closed, the lights turned off and to use as little electricity as possible to avoid a blackout. With this kind of heat, the loss of electricity to a large urban area could cause many people to die from heat stroke.

According to one expert, the current heat wave is notable not only for its temperatures, but also for its duration and persistence across a large swath of the United States. According to an article from today’s New York Times, more than 1,400 temperature records have been broken in cities and towns across the country in July alone. More than 132 million people are living in areas with heat warnings or advisories.

While prolonged high temperatures are an annoyance to many, the elderly, the young and the infirm are vulnerable to serious complications or death. To decrease your risk from high temperatures, there are several measures you can take:

  • Drink large volumes of cold water and sports beverages (to replenish electrolytes lost to sweat).
  • Wear thin, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, long-sleeved when in the sun (direct contact with sunlight heats the skin more than when covered with a light fabric – think Lawrence of Arabia).
  • Close blinds in your house or apartment to decrease ambient heat from the outside.
  • Lower body temperature by applying ice packs or cold, wet cloths to wrists, underarms and upper back.
  • Avoid exercise.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine, since both act as diuretics, causing unnecessary fluid loss.
  • Eat foods high in water content, such as cantaloupe and watermelon.
  • Eat small, frequent meals. Bring out your favorite cold summer soups and salads.

Remember that the symptoms of heat exhaustion mimic other conditions. Be aware that profuse sweating, weakness, nausea, vomiting, headache, lightheadedness and muscle cramps may all appear. Heat exhaustion can quickly progress to heat stroke when the body’s ability to lower its temperature fails.

So I am wearing a white dress made of thin cotton and a wide-brimmed hat. I am carrying both a parasol and a fan. And it is hot, hot, hot here in the city that certainly won’t sleep this weekend.

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  • hillsmom July 23, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    P.S. Dr. Pat, Has it been mentioned/observed before that your beloved dog is named after the airdale in the “Thin Man” series?

  • hillsmom July 23, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    Dear Dr. Pat, Many thanks for the list of songs, but we are a couple of generations apart, don’t you know. I forgot “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess (Gershwin/Ella) Verve records songbooks(?) Well, maybe it doesn’t count due to not being “hot”.

    Ah, there was no one like Ella who just stood there and sang. Never any scandal, drugs, etc. I have a lot of her albums, but nothing to play them on…except in my head. TMI?

    It was only 98 today, so I did get the cat food. Cheers

  • b. elliott July 23, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    With your fan and parasol, you are certainly channeling your inner Miss Daisy Buchanan! Would it be that the rest of the world would dress appropriately despite the heat. I really do not want to see everyone’s tattoos.

  • Dr. Patricia Yarberry Allen July 23, 2011 at 9:40 am

    Great comments here so early on a summer Saturday morning. I ordered Asta, the airedale’s food to be delivered for two months last week. I knew I would not be able to schlep cans of expensive dog food around in this heat. Stay cool, Hillsmom!

    Too Darn Hot was from the Cole Porter musical, Kiss me Kate. Other songs for your turn-table (ok, I-Pod) that you might like in this heat are:

    Summer in the City-Lovin’ Spoonful
    Hot, Hot, Hot-Buster Poindexter
    Some Like It Hot-Power Station
    Heat Wave-Martha and the Vandellas
    Long Hot Summer Night-Jimi Hendrix
    Hot Fun In The Summertime-Sly & The Family Stone
    The Heat is On-Glenn Frey
    I’m On Fire-Bruce Springsteen
    Long Hot Summer Days-Sara Watkins
    Hundred and Ten In The Shade-John Fogerty w/the Fairfield Four
    In the Heat of the Night-Ray Charles
    Long Hot Summer-Tom Robinson

    Alice, hope you are taking the Corvette out for a spin today, but do stay off that golf course. I am still waiting for that piece on women and fast cars by the way!!

  • hillsmom July 23, 2011 at 8:57 am

    Yes, I’m going to venture farther than the mailbox today to get cat food. The reigning queen of the household would be most displeased if we ran out. So will brave the heat early while properly attired. Also remember the song “Too Darn Hot”…was it from the musical “Kiss Me Kate”? Cole Porter?

    It’s a terrible thing to lose your mind…must be the heat ;^)

  • alice ray cathrall July 23, 2011 at 8:26 am

    lovely allusions to opera and literature,thankyou

  • Patricia Moscatello July 23, 2011 at 8:25 am

    Thanks, DR. Pat,

    Good information the heat can make one a bit delirious!
    Stay cool,