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Cooling Tips

Cooling TipsHigh temperatures pose serious risks to:

  • Older adults,
  • Infants,
  • Children up to the age of four years,
  • Persons who are overweight,
  • Persons who are homeless, 
  • Persons who work or exercise outdoors, and
  • Persons with heart or respiratory problems
Serious risks of excessive heat especially for persons over the age of 60 years

Persons may visit places such as air-conditioned homes of friends, libraries, malls and movie theaters to stay cool. All county older adults, age 60 and older, are welcome to visit any of the 57 county-funded senior centers during regular hours of operation (up to eight hours during peak heat times) to socialize and enjoy some activities while taking refuge from the heat. 

pdf.gif Directory of Senior Community Centers in Allegheny County 

Map of Senior Community Centers in Allegheny County 
An interactive map of all the Senior Community Centers in Allegheny County. By using the map, users can get directions to any Senior Community Center from any designated location.

Senior Centers with Extended Hours 

Some Senior Community Centers remain open for extended hours during extended periods of extreme heat. A chart is available below during these periods.

Tips for Staying Cool and Safe

These precautions are recommended to minimize the risk of heat-related illness:

  • Use the buddy system and check on the elderly and the infirm who do not have air conditioning and are less able to take care of themselves.
  • Never leave a child, or a pet, in a vehicle alone on a hot day.  A child may become disoriented in just five minutes, unconscious in 10 minutes and suffer brain-damage in just 20 minutes.
  • Stay cool indoors, preferably in an air-conditioned environment. If you or a friend or neighbor does not have A/C, visit someplace that does, such as a public librarysenior center, theater or mall.
  • Taking a cool bath or shower is more effective than using a fan to cool off if you don’t have air conditioning. You can also wrap a cool, wet cloth around your neck, moisten your clothing and/or run cool water over your forearms.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, at least eight cups a day, but not alcoholic or caffeinated drinks which actually cause you to lose more fluids. Avoid hot foods and heavy meals, which add heat to your body.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing. A wide-brimmed hat provides shade and helps keep the head cool. Sunscreen can prevent sunburn, which can affect your body’s ability to cool itself and also cause a loss of body fluids.
  • Avoid strenuous physical activity, particularly during the hotter part of the day.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tips for Preventing Heat-related Illness webpage has additional details and tips for staying safe in the heat.

Serious Risks of Excessive Heat

During periods of excessive heat, heat exhaustion or heat stroke may occur.

Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to an excessive loss of water and salt contained in sweat. 

Warning signs may include:

  • heavy sweating
  • paleness
  • muscle cramps
  • fatigue
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • nausea or vomiting
  • fainting 

Seek medical attention immediately if the symptoms are severe or if the person has heart problems or high blood pressure. Otherwise, help the victim cool off and seek medical attention if the symptoms worsen or last longer than one hour.           

Heat stroke, a more serious and potentially life-threatening condition, occurs when the body is unable to control its temperature and the sweating mechanism fails. 

Warning signs may include:

  • an extremely high body temperature (above 103°F)
  • red, hot and dry skin, due to no sweating
  • a rapid, strong pulse
  • throbbing headache
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • confusion
  • unconsciousness 

Death or permanent disability may result without emergency treatment. Cool the victim rapidly by any means available until paramedics arrive.  

What to do if you see any of the signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke: 
  • When in doubt call 911.  
  • Move the person to a cooler area. If possible, move into an air conditioned space. If not, then move into the shade. 
  • Cool the person with water either by using wet cloths or towels, a tub (always stay with the person, never leave them unsupervised), or spray them with a hose. 
  • Remove any heavy clothing. 
  • If the person shows mild symptoms of heat exhaustion, then give them fluids to drink. Do not do this if they are confused or lethargic.   
  • If the person shows symptoms of heat stroke or is at risk and has heat exhaustion symptoms, then call 911. 

    When in doubt call 911.   

Especially for persons who are homeless
  • East End Cooperative Ministry
    Community Connections Center (open to the public)
    6140 Station Street (formerly Penn Circle North)
    Pittsburgh, PA 15206
    Monday - Friday, 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Drop-in Centers 

Persons who are homeless can take advantage of several options to take refuge from extreme heat. Air-conditioned drop-in centers provide a variety of services for men, women and youth. 

  • Jubilee Kitchen
    2005 Wyandotte Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15219 (Lower Hill District – off Fifth Ave. near the Birmingham Bridge)
    Everyday, 8:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
  •  Miryam's (for women only)
    1410 Fifth Ave., Pittsburgh, 15219 (Downtown)
    Everyday, 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
  • Northside Common Ministries (for men and women)
    1601 Brighton Road, Pittsburgh, PA, 15212 (Northside)
    Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
    Lunch served Monday, Wednesday and Friday
  • Shepherd’s Heart Fellowship
    13 Pride Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15219 (Uptown – near Mercy Life Center)
    Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
  • Wellspring
    905 Watson Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15219 (behind Duquesne University)
    Monday - Friday, 10:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.  

Street Outreach 

Street Outreach programs operate all year long and are particularly active during weather emergencies.

  • Community Human Services
         Operation Save-a-Life, 412-246-1640
         Innovative Housing Supportive Services, 412-246-1643
  • Pittsburgh Mercy Health System Operation Safety Net, 412-232-5739