“Extreme hot weather can cause serious health problems. Most people don’t know that more Australians have died as a result of heatwaves than because of floods, bushfires or cyclones,” said Australian Red Cross’ NSW State Manager Emergency Services, Diana Bernardi. “Older people, pregnant women, children, those with a disability and people taking medications are among those who are more at risk.”
Extreme heat can also cause major disruptions to daily life, such as electricity cuts, the closure of schools and workplaces, and disruptions to public transport.
“Everyone is affected by the heat in different ways, but there are some simple steps you can take to reduce the effects,” Ms Bernardi said. “Top of the list is keeping out of the heat and making sure you drink water regularly.”
Here, Red Cross’ shares their tips for coping with the heat.
- Drink regularly: even if you don’t feel thirsty. Water is the best option. Avoid alcohol, tea, coffee and sugary or fizzy drinks as they make dehydration worse.
- Eat little and often: rather than large meals. Try to eat more cold food, particularly salads and fruit, which contain water.
- Stay indoors: in the coolest rooms of your house or in the shade during the hottest part of the day.
- Take cool showers and splash yourself with cold water several times a day, particularly your face and the back of your neck. A loose, cotton, damp cloth or scarf on the back of the neck can help you stay cool.
- Air flow: make sure there is sufficient air circulation, either from an air conditioner or by leaving a secured window or door open.
- Find the shade: if you must go out, stay in the shade. Wear a hat and light-coloured, loose-fitting clothes, preferably made of natural fibres. Wear sunglasses and apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 to exposed skin. If you will be outside for some time, take plenty of water with you.
- Look out for your neighbours: if you know someone who might be susceptible to heat stress, stop by and make sure they know what to do to stay cool.
While most of these tips may seem obvious to some people, the number of Australians affected by extreme heat at this time of the year, tells us that the community needs to be more vigilant when the mercury rises.
For more information on how to get prepared for emergencies large and small visit redcross.org.au/prepare.