This summer, stay healthy in the heat
With heatwaves becoming a regular feature of the Victorian summer, it’s important to plan ahead and consider how you can look after yourself and others when extreme heat hits.
Take heat seriously
Extreme heat can kill. Heat-related illness can range from mild conditions such as a rash or cramps to very serious conditions such as heat stroke, which is potentially fatal. Heat can also make an existing medical condition worse, for example heart disease.
Heat-related illness can affect anybody, including the young and healthy, however the elderly or frail, pregnant women, babies and young children and people with a disability are more at risk.
Elderly people are more prone to heat stress than younger people because their body may not adjust well to sudden or prolonged temperature change. They are also more likely to have a chronic medical condition and be taking medication that may interfere with the body’s ability to regulate temperature.
If a heatwave is predicted, there are some things you can do to prepare:
- Consider how you will keep your house cool and how you could make it cooler, for example by installing external blinds on the sides of the house facing the sun
Check that your fan or air-conditioner works well
Think of a place you and the family can visit to escape the heat if you need to
Think of friends, family or neighbours who might be vulnerable and how you could care for them
Reschedule or reconsider any plans that will involve a lot of sun exposure
Think about what you would do if a heatwave caused power failures or disruptions to public transport.
When the heat hits
Stay cool indoors – keep air circulating around you. Use air conditioning if possible. Take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath. If it’s just too hot at your place consider visiting an air-conditioned shopping centre or public library. Stay out of the sun as much as you can. Indoors is best.
Keep up your fluids – you need to drink more water during hot weather, regardless of how active you are. Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink. Drink plenty of water or other cool, non-alcoholic fluids. Avoid alcohol or drinks that contain lots of sugar.
Protect yourself outside – if you must be outdoors, remember to protect yourself from the sun – stick to the shade, ‘slip, slop, slap’ by covering exposed skin with lightweight clothes, using sunscreen and wearing a hat, ‘seek’ shade and ‘slide’ on sunglasses.
Take it easy – whether it’s work or play, too much physical activity on a hot day can lead to heat stress. If you can, restrict activity or travel to cooler parts of the day.
Never leave children or pets in cars – even on cool days or if the windows are left open a fraction. Cars can heat up to dangerous temperatures very quickly. Children or pets that are left unattended in parked cars for even a few minutes are at risk of serious heat-related illnesses and possibly death.
Watch out for others – check on older, sick or frail people who may need help coping with the heat (at least twice a day).
For more information, visit www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au