Australians urged to prepare for heatwave

With temperatures reportedly forecast to rise well into the 30s across parts of Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria this week, the Australian Red Cross is urging people to prepare for the heatwave.

“Extreme hot weather can cause serious health problems. More Australians have died as a result of heatwaves than floods, bushfires or cyclones,” says Red Cross Regional Area Lead, First Aid and Mental Health, Janie McCullagh.

“We’re urging people to be prepared.”

Ms McCullagh adds that it’s important that people to “keep cool, hydrated and know how to recognise the signs of heatstroke”, which include:

  • A change in consciousness or being confused;
  • Appearing hot, red and flustered;
  • In extreme cases, vomiting.

“Heatstroke can be life threatening,” says Ms McCullagh.

“Knowing how to respond can be critical. The confidence to know what to do in a first aid emergency can make the difference between a positive outcome and a tragedy.”

Tips for coping with the heat

To cope with the heat, the Australian Red Cross recommends the following precautions:

  • 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 (especially 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 throughout the 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.
  • Make sure there is sufficient air flow either from an air conditioner or a secured open window or door.
  • When outside wear a hat and light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing. Wear sunglasses and apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 or above.

The Australian Red Cross also underscores the importance of looking out for your neighbours during a heatwave.

They suggest that if you know someone who might be susceptible to heat stress, stop by and make sure they know what to do to stay cool.

For more information on keeping cool during warmer weather, Australian Red Cross’ free First Aid app can be used to guide people through the signs, symptoms and responses for heatstroke and many other first aid emergencies.

Further information can also be found be at: redcross.org.au/get-help/emergencies/looking-after-yourself/how-to-prepare-for-a-heatwave.

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