Coping and Staying Safe in Extreme Heat

Extreme Heat Safety"

Extreme heat can be dangerous, causing dehydration and overheating. These conditions can lead to serious and potentially fatal health issues such as heat exhaustion, heatstroke, heart attacks, strokes, and worsening of chronic conditions like kidney or lung disease. While everyone is at risk, certain groups are more vulnerable, including:

  • People over 65
  • Babies and young children
  • Pregnant women
  • Individuals with acute or chronic health problems
  • Those who are socially isolated

Extreme heat can pose significant health risks. It can cause the body to overheat and become dehydrated, leading to serious health problems such as heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and other heat-related illnesses. Sudden events like heart attacks or strokes can also be triggered by extreme heat. Additionally, existing medical conditions such as kidney or lung disease can worsen during hot weather.

Staying Safe in Extreme Heat

To prevent heat-related health problems, it’s crucial to stay cool and hydrated. Here are some practical steps to ensure safety during hot weather:

Keep Cool

  1. Use Air Conditioning: If available, use it alongside a fan to reduce costs. Set your thermostat to 26-27˚C.
  2. Electric Fans: These can help cool you down if indoor temperatures are below 39-40˚C.
  3. Stay Moist: Keep your skin wet with a spray bottle or damp sponge.
  4. Cool Towels: Soak a towel in cool tap water and wrap it loosely around your head.
  5. Cool Showers and Foot Baths: Use cool tap water to lower your body temperature.
  6. Ice Packs: Wrap ice cubes in a damp towel and drape it around your neck.
  7. Light Clothing: Wear light and loose-fitting clothing to stay cool.
  8. Visit Cool Places: Go to air-conditioned buildings like shopping centers or libraries.
  9. Block Sunlight: Use blinds or curtains to keep sunlight from heating your home.
  10. Ventilation: Open windows and doors if it’s cooler outside than inside.

Stay Hydrated

  1. Drink Regularly: Drink water before you feel thirsty, especially if you’re outdoors or physically active.
  2. Watch for Dehydration Signs: Look out for thirst, lightheadedness, dry mouth, fatigue, and dark urine.
  3. Always Carry Water: Keep a water bottle with you whenever you leave home.

Plan Ahead

  1. Reschedule Activities: Cancel or postpone non-essential outings during extreme heat.
  2. Choose Cooler Times: Plan essential activities for the coolest parts of the day. Stay in the shade, wear a hat, and use sunscreen.
  3. Stay Informed: Keep up with weather forecasts and heat warnings.
  4. Stock Up: Ensure you have enough food, water, and medications.
  5. Store Properly: Keep food and medicines at appropriate temperatures.
  6. Check Equipment: Ensure your fan or air-conditioner is in good working order.
  7. Prepare for Power Outages: Have a torch, battery-operated radio, fully charged mobile phone, and non-perishable food items ready.
  8. Home Improvements: Consider reflective coatings, insulation, external window awnings, shade cloths, and planting trees for shade.

Checking in with Others

A quick call can make a big difference. Regularly check in on family, friends, and neighbors, especially those at increased risk, to ensure they are coping well with the heat.

Special Considerations

Older People

Older adults are more susceptible to heat-related health problems because their bodies are less efficient at adjusting to temperature changes. They are also more likely to have underlying medical conditions and be on medications that affect temperature regulation.

  • Review care plans with a doctor before the hot weather.
  • Adjust fluid intake and medications as advised by a healthcare professional.


Babies and young children need special care during hot weather as they are less capable of regulating their body temperature.

  • Never Leave in Cars: Never leave babies or young children in parked cars.
  • Additional Fluids: Offer extra breast or bottle feeds.
  • Appropriate Clothing: Dress them in light, loose-fitting clothes.
  • Cool Strollers: Cover strollers with a moist cloth and consider using a battery-operated fan.

Outdoor Workers and Exercisers

Working or exercising outdoors in extreme heat increases the risk of heat-related health problems.

  • Reschedule Activities: Cancel or reschedule outdoor work or exercise.
  • Take Breaks: Increase rest breaks and stay in shaded or well-ventilated areas.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids before and during activities.

Helping Others

Help relatives and friends who are at higher risk by:

  • Checking on them regularly, especially if they live alone.
  • Offering assistance with errands or shopping.
  • Taking them to cool places if their home is too hot.

Managing Events or Workplaces

For those organizing events or managing workers in hot environments:

  • Develop a heatwave plan.
  • Ensure access to free, easily accessible water.
  • Follow heat-health information from relevant authorities like Sports Medicine Australia and Safe Work Australia.

By following these guidelines, you can effectively mitigate the risks associated with extreme heat and ensure the safety and well-being of yourself and others


What are the signs of heat exhaustion?

Symptoms include heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, nausea, and headaches.

How can I stay cool without air conditioning?

Use fans, take cool showers, keep your skin wet, and wear light clothing.

What should I do if I see someone with heatstroke?

Call emergency services immediately, move the person to a cooler place, and cool them down with wet cloths or ice packs.

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