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TRENTON – As New Jersey faces its first extended heat wave this week, the Department of Human Services (DHS) today issued a warning for senior citizens, people with psychiatric and substance abuse disorders and others taking medications affected by high temperatures.

Heat index values around 100 degrees are possible in the afternoon today and tomorrow, and an Excessive Heat Warning is effective through 6 a.m. Friday for Mercer, Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties, according to an alert issued by the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management. (NJOEM), which also issued a statewide Air Quality Alert for people with heart and lung problems.

Continued exposure to such high temperatures can cause heat stroke and death, especially in people who take certain medications.

““Extremely high temperatures can quickly result in dehydration and can have a dangerous impact on many medications. We want people to take live-saving precautions,” DHS Acting Commissioner Elizabeth Connolly said. “People die every summer from heat stroke because they or their caretakers are unaware of the higher risks they face.”

“Senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to excessive heat,” Connolly cautioned. To ease the costs of electricity to run fans and air conditioners to cool the homes of senior citizens, Connolly noted that the Office of Aging within DHS also works with The Board of Public Utilities to operate Lifeline, which provides energy cost assistance to qualified seniors and people with disabilities. For more information about Lifeline, please call 1-800-792-9745.

The acting commissioner also said that DHS’ Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services soon will launch a multimedia campaign to raise awareness among mental health and substance abuse providers and consumers of the dangerous and often lethal impact heat has on many common medications used during treatment and recovery.

A recent study in the British Journal of Psychiatry estimates that people taking psychiatric drugs are 40 percent more likely to die from heat-related conditions than the general population when exposed to temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Alcohol also increases heat intolerance and dehydration.

DMHAS Medical Director Dr. Robert Eilers cautioned that people on medication-assisted treatment should not stop taking their medications before contacting the provider who prescribed them but should take precautions that can save their lives.

“We want people to be cautious. Drink plenty of water, stay as cool as possible, and find out whether heat affects the medication you are taking,” Eilers said.

Symptoms of heat stroke include nausea<>, vomiting, fainting, seizures, confusion, disorientation, throbbing headache, dizziness, lack of sweating, red skin, rapid heartbeat and breathing, and loss of consciousness or coma<>

If heat stroke is suspected, immediately call 911 or get to a hospital. While waiting for help, move the person into air conditioning or shade, remove unnecessary clothing, wet person with cool water, apply ice to armpits, groin, neck and back or immerse in cold water or ice.

For information about cooling centers set up in the state, please go to For more information about precautions to take during heat waves, please click onto:

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