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High Temperatures Grip US for Another Day

A heat wave that gripped most of the United States has let up in some parts of the country but continues in others. New York City opened up nearly 300 cooling centers. The state of Virginia issued a hazardous weather alert. Officials are being cautious because last year a number of people died due to heat-related illnesses. VOA's Carol Pearson has more on the heat in the U.S. and staying healthy. Melinda Smith narrates.

U.S. health officials are urging Americans to drink plenty of water as a heat wave grips most of the country. Portland, Oregon, braced for another day of temperatures hovering around 30 degrees Celsius. Health officials also issued warnings for people to take precautions in the heat. Even birds took that advice. Blistering heat affected the west coast, the east coast and just about everything in between. In Chicago, people cooled off in Lake Michigan.

"It's too hot,” said a citizen. “I don't have any air conditioner, so it's really hot for me and my son, so we just came out to enjoy the weather and the water today."

In many cities, officials issued air quality warning. In the heat, ground-level ozone mixes in with automobile exhaust from cars and other pollutants producing air that is dangerous to breathe. Several cities opened cooling centers to help residents bear the high temperatures. Heat is deadliest in large cities. Cities have large areas of brick and concrete that can trap hot air. The U.S. government has focused more attention on heat waves and has worked more closely with city officials such as Chicago's Joyce Gallagher.

"We just ask each and every person to please check on someone in their neighborhood that they think is in need," says Gallagher.

Health officials have been trying to get the word out that the body's temperature regulation system can get overwhelmed. Signs of heat-related illnesses include fatigue, thirst, heavy perspiration, even muscle cramps. When dehydration becomes even greater, people can suffer headache, nausea and dizziness. If the situation worsens, it can lead to heat stroke.

The symptoms include confusion and dizziness, breathing can be rapid and shallow, and the person's skin can be hot, dry and red. Cooling the skin and providing water is essential.

But the best remedy is prevention: staying cool, drinking plenty of fluid, and avoiding outdoor exercise in heat, humidity and strong sunshine. People with the most trouble regulating body temperature are the very young and the very old. But others are susceptible, too.

"It's really really hot,” said one woman. “And I'm a fool for coming out here on my bicycle."