Australia is a wonderful place to live, but we all need to take extra care when summer comes around.
Did you know that heatwaves have killed more Australians than all other natural hazards combined?
The heat can adversely affect the very young or very old - sometimes with dire results. Others who are at high risk include pregnant or nursing mothers, people with heart disease, high blood pressure, lung disease or who are on certain medications.
This summer, practise a few safety measures to stay healthy in extreme weather conditions.
- Drink plenty of fluids but avoid caffeine and alcohol
- Cool your body - wear loose, light clothing, avoid direct sunlight, keep your skin damp with moist cloths or a water sprayer and avoid unnecessary activity
- Cool your home - circulate the air with a fan, open windows to catch the breeze, set your air conditioner to 26 degrees
- Care for others – check on elderly friends, relatives and neighbours, remind children to drink water, ensure animals have water and shade
- Keep food safe – store food that needs refrigeration properly, and defrost foods in the fridge, not on the kitchen bench
- Be sun safe – if you have go out in the sun, use sunscreen, hats and cover exposed areas
Heat related illness
Heat stress is one of the biggest health risks associated with heat waves. Hot weather places extra strain on your body as it tries to cool itself to its preferred temperature of 37C.
Heat exhaustion is caused by an imbalance of the electrolytes within the body. People with this condition sweat excessively and look very pale. They may also have muscle cramps. Treat with balanced electrolytes and use cooling strategies.
Heat stroke occurs when someone is unable to regulate their body temperature and it rises to unsafe levels. Symptoms include hot, red, dry skin, strong and rapid pulse, dizziness, nausea (or vomiting) and possible faintness or loss of consciousness. This is a medical emergency and needs urgent attention. If you have these symptoms or find someone who does - call an ambulance immediately and keep them as cool as possible until help arrives.
If you are unwell, contact your doctor or go to the nearest hospital emergency department. If you think your symptoms are serious, call triple zero (000) for an ambulance immediately or 112 on your mobile phone.
While you are waiting for an ambulance try to cool yourself down. Place icepacks under your armpits, on your groin or on the back of the neck to reduce body heat. Take a cool shower or bath (if you feel well enough) or spray yourself with cool water from a spray bottle.