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Stay healthy in the heat

Everyone is at risk of heat-related illness during hot weather and extreme heat. Some groups of people – such as babies and young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people who have chronic health conditions – are more at risk than others.

Follow these simple steps to stay healthy in the heat:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Stay cool with a fan or air-conditioner
  • Avoid going out in the hottest part of the day
  • Keep curtains, blinds and windows closed during the day to keep your home cool
  • Cool off with a shower or bath
  • Look out for family, friends and the elderly
  • Check the weather forecast so you know when hot weather is coming
  • If you go outside during the day, wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved and light-coloured clothing, a hat, and SPF30+ sunscreen.

Find more information on how to stay healthy in the heat under the topics below.

Extreme Heat or a Heatwave is when there are three or more days of unusually high maximum and minimum temperatures.

The State Emergency Service (SES) is the control agency for severe weather in South Australia. Throughout Summer, the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) predicts daily temperatures. BoM then works with the SES to issue alerts and warnings to the public.

If extremely hot weather is forecast and is predicted to last for a number of days and nights, the SES will issue an Extreme Heat Warning.

South Australia can experience long periods of extreme heat, so it is important to know:

  • what the effects of extreme heat are
  • who is at risk
  • how you can prepare for and how to stay healthy.

What is the different between 'extreme heat' and 'hot weather'?

Extreme heat is more than just ‘hotter than usual’ weather.

When temperatures are hotter than 35°C, your body may not be able to cool you down enough for you to stay healthy, especially if you are an older person or if you are taking certain medicines.

In extreme heat, you are more likely to develop a heat-related illness and become unwell much faster than you would when in warm or hot weather.

For more information:

  • Check radio, television and online news regularly for information and advice
  • For Extreme Heat Warnings visit www.ses.sa.gov.au.

Heat-related illness symptoms and treatment

Early signs of dehydration and heat-related illness include:

  • sweating heavily
  • having a raised body temperature
  • feeling dizzy or faint
  • feeling tired and lethargic
  • reduced appetite
  • feeling thirsty
  • being irritable
  • twitching or having painful muscle cramps in the arms, legs or abdomen  

If you or someone you know is showing these signs and feeling unwell:

  • stop what you are doing, go to a cool, shaded place and lie down
  • drink plenty of water or other fluids, avoiding caffeine and alcohol
  • try to cool down with a fan or an air-conditioner, a cool damp towel around your neck, cool water sprayed on your skin or by having a cool shower or bath
  • use massage to ease any spasms or cramps, then use ice packs
  • if still unwell after taking these steps, seek medical advice as soon as possible.

More serious heat-related illnesses include heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

Heat Exhaustion symptoms and treatment

Heat exhaustions is a mild to moderate illness caused  by water or salt depletion, that results from exposure to high heat or strenuous physical exercise.

The signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include (in addition to those above):

  • headaches
  • having a raised body temperature
  • sweating heavily
  • fatigue, weakness and restlessness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • weak, rapid pulse
  • poor coordination
  • anxiety

What to do if you or someone you know is showing the signs of heat exhaustion:

  • stop what you are doing, go to a cool, shaded place and lie down with legs supported and slightly lifted
  • slowly sip plenty of water or fruit juice, avoiding caffeine and alcohol
  • try to cool down with a fan or an air-conditioner, cool water sprayed on skin or by having a cool shower or bath
  • reduce body temperature by putting cool packs under the armpits, in the groin and on the back of the neck
  • use massage to ease spasms or cramps, then use ice packs.

If symptoms of heat exhaustion last for more than an hour, call 000 immediately for an ambulance or go to a hospital Emergency Department.

Heatstroke symptoms

Heatstroke is a severe illness where a person’s temperature is greater than 40°C, and the person is experiencing delirium (confusion), convulsions, or coma, resulting from exposure to high heat or strenuous physical exercise.

The signs and symptoms of heatstroke include:

  • headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and confusion
  • having flushed, hot and unusually dry skin
  • being extremely thirsty
  • having a dry, swollen tongue
  • having a sudden rise in body temperature to more than 40°C
  • being disoriented or delirious
  • slurred speech
  • being aggressive or behaving strangely
  • convulsions, seizures or coma.
  • may be sweating and skin may feel deceptively cool
  • rapid pulse

Emergency treatment for Heatstroke

If you notice any of the above signs of heatstroke in yourself or others, call 000 immediately for an ambulance.

Heatstroke is an extreme medical emergency. If not treated immediately, it can lead to permanent damage to vital organs or even death.

While waiting for the ambulance to arrive:

  • if possible, move the person to somewhere cool and keep them still
  • loosen their clothes, sprinkle them with cool water, or wrap them in a damp sheet
  • place cool, damp cloths in their armpits, on the back of their neck and on their forehead to cool them down as quickly as possible
  • use a fan to help cool them down if one is available
  • do not give aspirin or paracetamol to a person affected by heat.

If the person is conscious:

  • try to keep them calm
  • give them small sips of water or fruit juice
  • stay with them until the ambulance arrives.

If the person is unconscious:

  • check their airway is clear
  • monitor their pulse rate
  • stay with them until the ambulance arrives.


Emergency telephone numbers

In a medical emergency, always call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.

For emergency assistance due to fallen trees, blackouts and structural damage to buildings cause by severe winds and storms, contact the SES on 132 500.

Helpful telephone numbers

ABC Emergency – broadcast media

  • ABC Radio
    Broadcasts throughout metropolitan and regional South Australia. Find the ABC Radio frequency in your area, or an area you will be visiting during extreme heat.
  • ABC Emergency website
  • ABC Emergency social media: Facebook and Twitter

Helpful websites

Health information

  • Healthdirect Australia ( healthdirect provides free, trusted health information and advice, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

Weather information

Emergency information

Culturally And Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Communities

Women’s And Children’s Health Network

Helpful social media

Helpful apps for mobile devices

The below useful apps are available via the iTunes app store or Google Play for Android:

Simple steps you can take to reduce your chances of becoming affected by the heat and unwell during very hot weather:

  • Check your fans and air conditioners to make sure they are working and that filters, pads and air vents are clean.
  • If you have been using a reverse-cycle air-conditioner, make sure it is set to ‘cool’ before summer begins.
  • If you regularly take medicines, check with your doctor about whether they will affect what you should do when it gets very hot.
  • Learn the signs of heat related illness so you can respond quickly if you or someone you know becomes sick.
  • Think about how you will look after your pets and keep them healthy and cool when the weather gets very hot.
  • Make a plan for keeping in regular contact with friends and neighbours when it is very hot in case you or they need help.
  • Put together a small emergency kit, including a torch, batteries, a first aid kit and a list of important telephone numbers.
  • Make sure you have food and other groceries at home so you are less likely to need to go out when it is really hot.

For more information:

Do you depend on power?

If you or someone you care for relies on power - for critical care medical equipment in the home or critical pharmacy-dispensed medication - developing an emergency management plan for lengthy, planned and unplanned power outages with your GP, pharmacy, carers, and family is essential.

There are four easy steps to creating an effective plan to protect your health during an extended power outage:

  • Being prepared
  • Having a plan in place
  • Registering for support
  • Receiving alerts.

To get started, read the Do you depend on power (PDF 547KB) brochure for detailed information and referrals.

If you are pregnant, it is important for your health and the health of your baby that you follow the tips in this guide when the weather is hot.

During pregnancy, most women have higher body temperatures, making them more sensitive to heat in hot weather.

For this reason, pregnant women need to take extra steps to make sure they and their unborn babies do not overheat:

  • If you feel unwell because of the heat, it is important that you stop what you are doing and lie down in a cool, air-conditioned room.
  • If your symptoms continue, speak with your General Practitioner, obstetrician, midwife or the maternity unit where you plan to give birth for specific medical advice.
  • Pace yourself. Ask for help if you are too hot or tired to cook, clean, or run errands. Put your feet up whenever you can. Growing a baby is hard work and you need plenty of rest during the day.
  • Lying and sleeping on your left side will mean that more blood and nutrients will reach the placenta and your baby.

In a medical emergency, always call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.

For more information:

Babies and young children

Babies and young children are very sensitive to hot weather, so it is important to watch them closely and stop them from getting dehydrated or too hot.

If you think your child is unwell due to hot weather, seek medical attention.

  • Avoid taking babies or young children out in the hottest part of the day.
  • If you do have to go out, keep them in the shade, protect their skin with loose-fitting clothing and a hat, and use baby or toddler formula sunscreen.
  • For the first 6 months when your baby is only on breast milk or formula, you shouldn’t give them any water. But in hot weather, your baby may want to feed more than usual but for shorter periods.
  • Make sure young children have regular drinks throughout the day. Water is best. Avoid giving them sugary or fizzy drinks.
  • Dress babies and young children in light, loose-fitting clothing, like singlets and nappies, or loose tops.
  • Choose the coolest place in your home for babies or young children to sleep, making sure air can circulate around their bassinette or cot.
  • To help babies and young children cool down, sponge them with lukewarm – not cold – water.
  • Avoid using baby carriers and slings as they restrict the airflow and babies may be more likely to overheat.
  • If you need to cover the pram to keep baby shaded, use a large canopy, or a mesh or perforated sun shield designed for strollers, instead of a blanket. These will ensure adequate airflow and allow you to still see your baby.
  • Regularly check on children and infants.
  • Never leave babies or children in a stationary car.

Children and teenagers

Children and teenagers can get hotter more quickly than adults and are at greater risk of suffering from heat-related illness.

Prior to puberty, they sweat less than adults which makes it harder for them to cool off.

Acne mediations may cause sun sensitivity – talk with your child’s General Practitioner about medications and hot weather.

Make sure they follow these tips:

  • Drink lots of water. Avoid drinks with caffeine (like cola).
  • Wear light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing and a hat which covers the back of their neck.
  • Limit outdoor activities in extremely hot weather. Breaks should be taken every 15 to 30 minutes during outdoor activities to have a drink and cool down.
  • Wear SPF30+ sunscreen, reapplied regularly, especially when going in the water.
  • If playing sports, drink 2 to 3 cups (500 to 700mL) of cool water or sports drink every hour.
  • Make sure your child knows what to do, especially if they are away from home, if they feel unwell in the heat:
    • stop playing, move to a cooler place, sit down in a shady spot, drink water.
    • they need to tell someone without being upset or embarrassed about doing so.
    • make sure they have a small backpack to carry items they need – water, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and a small towel or flannel to wet and cool themselves with.

For more information:

As we age, we can have a higher risk of heat-related illness, especially if we live alone, have medical conditions, or if we take certain medicines.

Some medicines can make you more prone to sunburn and heat stress, so it is important to watch for signs of being affected by hot weather.

If you have a chronic medical condition and take regular medication, talk with your General Practitioner about how to take care of your health during hot weather.

Always speak with your doctor or pharmacist for more advice about the medicines you are taking.

If you are an older person or if you care for someone who is elderly, the following tips may help you:

  • Arrange for a friend or relative to visit you once or twice a day to check how you are and that you have everything you need to stay healthy in the heat.
  • Take simple steps to keep cool:
  • Use air-conditioners and fans set to cool
  • Put a wet cloth around your neck or put your feet in a bowl of cool water
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day, even if you do not feel thirsty, and take a bottle of water wherever you go so you do not become dehydrated.
  • Swap large meals for smaller ones. Make cool meals, like salads, and avoid using ovens or stoves in hot weather – they can make your home much hotter.
  • A trip to an air-conditioned public space, like the local library, cinema or shopping centre, may help you keep cool and give you some relief from hot weather. But remember, avoid going outside in the hottest part of the day.
  • Register with the free Red Cross Telecross REDi (SA) service on 1800 188 071. Trained Red Cross volunteers call older people up to three times a day to make sure they are well and coping in hot weather.

For more information:

If you or someone you know have a chronic health condition (e.g. renal, cardiovascular and mental health), or if you take certain medicines, you may be more likely to have health problems when the weather is hot.

  • Have a friend or relative to check in with you every day to see how you are and make sure you have everything you need to stay healthy in the heat, especially if you live alone.
  • The medicines you take may change how your body responds to hot weather and could mean you do not realise that you are becoming overheated or dehydrated.
  • Ask your doctor or General Practitioner about the medicines you take and how to reduce the risks of health problems  during hot weather.
  • Continue taking your medicines as they have been prescribed by your doctor.
  • Check with your doctor about how much water you should drink when the weather is hot and always carry a bottle of water with you.
  • Maintain your regular daily routine.
  • Be alert: A person with a mental health condition or a cognitively-impaired person may not be able to tell you when they are feeling hot or unwell.

For more information:

Like people, animals can be affected by hot weather and suffer heat-related illnesses.

Follow these tips to help your pet keep cool on hot days and during extreme heat:

  • If possible, bring your pets inside when the weather is hot. If they cannot be brought indoors, make sure they have plenty of shelter and shade.
  • Pets in cages, like birds, rabbits and guinea pigs, need to be kept indoors or in shade at all times of the day on extremely hot days.
  • Make sure pets have plenty of clean, fresh water to drink (use two large bowls, in case one runs out or is knocked over), and put both in the shade. Ice blocks will help keep their water cool for longer.
  • Never leave pets in a closed shed, garage or car – the temperature inside will get very hot very quickly.
  • Walk your dog early in the morning or later in the day when the temperature has dropped and it is cooler.
  • Never walk your dog on hot pavements, roads or sand – paws are sensitive and can easily burn.
  • Do not leave your pet’s food outside in the heat – if they do not eat it straight away, cover it and put it in the fridge for later.
  • If your pet is showing signs of heat stress, like panting, sweating or drooling:
    • move them to a cool place
    • try to get them to drink water – you may have to pour some into their mouth
    • if your dog is overheated, stand it in water up to its belly. This works better than spraying water on their back
    • seek urgent medical attention for your pet from a veterinarian (a vet).

For more information:

Exercising in hot weather

Staying healthy in hot weather may mean you have to change your exercise routine to reduce your risk of heat-related illness.

When the weather is hot, it is important to:

  • Use common sense – exercise moderately and, if you start to feel ill, slow down and stop.
  • Light coloured, loose-fitting clothes made from natural fibres like cotton will let sweat evaporate more easily, helping to keep you cool.
  • Keep cool by modifying your routine - eg swap a run for a swim or work out in an air-conditioned room or gym.
  • Drink plenty of water before and during exercise.
  • If you like to exercise outside, do it early in the day or late in the evening when the temperature is cooler and try to stay in the shade.
  • During daylight hours, wear a hat and sunglasses, and make sure you apply SPF30+ sunscreen at least 20 minutes before you go outdoors.

More information

Sleeping in hot weather

It can be more difficult to get the sleep you need when the weather is very hot or in extreme heat.

Try these tips to help you get a better night sleep:

  • If you have an air conditioner, put it on before you go to bed to let the room cool down.
  • Keep curtains, blinds and windows closed during the day to keep your home cool.
  • Give your body time too cool down before bed by avoiding exercise or strenuous activities at night; plan these earlier in the day rather than later.
  • Having a cool shower or bath just before going to bed will help bring your body temperature down, making it easier to get to sleep.
  • Sleep in the coolest room in your home – it might not be a bedroom.
  • Limit daytime naps to early afternoon and make sure they are short.
  • If you use a fan in the bedroom, keep the door open to improve airflow.
  • Cotton clothing is best to sleep in because natural fibres breathe.
  • Cool down with a wet towel or water spray bottle.

More information

Food safety

Keeping your food safe is important at all times but it is especially important in hot weather and extreme heat.

Bacteria grows much more quickly on food when conditions are hot, increasing the risk of food poisoning.

  • Make sure your fridge is clean, uncluttered and set at 5°C or less.
  • Prepare food near to the time it is going to be served.
  • Defrost foods in the fridge or the microwave, not on the kitchen bench.
  • Put leftovers in the fridge as soon as they stop steaming.
  • Never leave food in a hot car.
  • Take insulated cooler bags to the shops to carry home chilled and frozen foods.
  • Immediately pack chilled and frozen foods in the fridge and freezer when you get home.
  • Don't leave food out for too long (never more than 2 hours out of the fridge).
  • Keep leftovers in fridge and eat within 2-3 days.

For more information about food safety and how you can prevent food poisoning, visit www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/foodsafety

Are you drinking enough water?

Water makes up about two thirds of our body weight. We should drink water regularly to keep well hydrated and to replace water lost from the body, such as through perspiration (sweat).

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends an average person needs to drink about a litre and a half of fluids each day. In hotter parts of Australia and during hot weather and extreme heat, you may need to drink much more water to prevent the body becoming dehydrated.

Have a refillable bottle of water handy in your bag, backpack, at work and in the car and remember to avoid caffeine and alcohol, especially during hot weather and extreme heat.

Are you drinking enough water?

Coping with hot weather can be very stressful and tiring. It can take a couple of days for you to completely recover.

To help you stay healthy after hot weather or extreme heat:

  • Continue to drink plenty of water so your body can get back in balance.
  • Open doors and windows with locking security screens to let cool air though your home to cool it down.
  • Get plenty of rest and, if you feel unwell, make a time to see your doctor.
  • Think about the things that you could do differently so you are better able to cope next time it is very hot.
  • Contact family and friends to see how they coped and to check if they need any help.

Make any necessary changes to your home so it will be more comfortable next time there is hot weather or extreme heat.

Information for health professionals

Prolonged periods of extremely hot weather can have serious health impacts on the more vulnerable groups of society. Health professionals play a key role to protect vulnerable people from potential severe health effects of heat waves. Visit the Heat and hot weather – information for health professionals page for more information.

Heat related research

Over summer, South Australia experiences periods of extremely hot weather. These extreme heat events, where maximum temperatures are above 40°C over a number of days with little relief during the night, have resulted in some people becoming ill. However, illness from the heat can be prevented.

Researchers at SA Health have been working with The University of Adelaide to investigate how to prevent poor health during extreme heat.

Visit the Heat related research papers page for more information.

Video

Stay healthy in the heat

Radio

Radio Transcript

Voice over: Even though we live in a state of extreme heat, do you know what the signs are if someone’s affected?

Would you know the symptoms?

It’s important to take care of yourself, relatives and those around you.

It may sound simple, but extreme heat can be extremely bad for your health.

The frail or elderly, those who live alone, the young and those with ongoing health conditions are most vulnerable.

To find out what to look for and what you can do in cases of heat stress go to: sahealth.sa.gov.au

It may just save your life… or someone else’s.

A message from the Government of South Australia.


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