How to stay safe in extreme heat
Tips for dealing with a heat wave in Australia
Australia is famous for its sunny skies and warm summers, but none of us can deny that it’s getting warmer. Heatwaves are lasting longer, getting hotter and are more intense. They’re also starting earlier. Areas of NSW, South Australia and Victoria experienced a September heatwave last month with temperatures in the mid-thirties.
All this warm weather means we need to be more careful about ways we stay safe in extreme heat. Many Australians can be vulnerable to heat, including young children, older adults and people with a health condition or disability.
Here are some practical tips for dealing with extreme heat to help you get through the spring and summer ahead.
1. Stay hydrated
We all know how important hydration is, but it’s doubly important during hot weather. When it’s hot, your body sweats to keep itself cool, but if you’re dehydrated, your body may not make enough sweat so your body temperature could rise.
Make sure you have a bottle of water close by, particularly if mobility is a concern. Remember that drinks high in sugar, caffeine or alcohol can dehydrate you faster, so try not to drink many of them. If your doctor normally limits your fluids, check with them about how much you should drink during hot weather.
2. Stay in the shade
To stay safe in extreme heat, it’s important to avoid direct sun exposure. Time your outdoor pursuits for cooler times of the day such as the early morning or late evening.
If you go outside during the day, make sure you have transport to get where you need to go. Make sure your destination has enough shade and seating and don’t forget to wear a hat and sunscreen. You could also consider carrying an umbrella, so you have shade wherever you go.
3. Keep your living spaces cool
If your living room faces north or west, consider setting up a cooler south or east facing space to use during the hotter days. Try to keep this area as cool as possible. Get a fan or use an air conditioner to cool the space down.
Keep the curtains closed during the day so the heat can’t enter through the windows. You could even put external shutters or reflective material on the outside of your windows to help reflect the sun and keep heat away from your living space.
During the cooler parts of the day and evening, open up the house a bit to let the fresh air through and help cool down your home.
4. Seek cool places
If you don’t have air conditioning, consider spending your day with a friend who does, or at a community or shopping centre. Other cool places include the local pool, library or the cinema.
Make sure you don’t spend too long in a hot, stationary car. The temperature in parked cars can rise in minutes. Children, older people and pets should never be left in cars.
5. Wear the right clothes for the weather
Choose outfits that are light-coloured, loose and lightweight as these types of clothing reflect sunlight and help your skin to breathe. Natural fabrics like cotton are ideal as they help absorb and evaporate sweat efficiently.
If you get too hot, you can cool down with an ice pack or damp towels with ice in them. Put your feet in cool water or take a cool (but not cold) shower.
6. Stay informed
Make sure you know what the latest weather forecast is going to be so you can prepare and adapt your plans in case of hot weather. Some reliable sources include:
7. Recognise heat related illness and get help
Understanding the signs of heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, can be lifesaving. If you experience symptoms like dizziness, excessive sweating, a rapid pulse, nausea or an elevated body temperature, move to a cooler place. Sip some water, rest, and seek medical advice if symptoms persist.
If you or your loved one are struggling at home this summer, we can help. Five Good Friends helps people like you lead engaged and successful lives at home. Give us a call.
Learn more: How to improve your emotional well-being