No matter what part of Australia you live in, it’s become the norm to expect some extreme heat during summer with temperatures commonly exceeding 40°C, sometimes for multiple days at a time.
2019 was the hottest year for Australia on record with extreme temperatures hitting most of the country on a regular basis. With the heat comes the challenge of keeping cool, not just for your own comfort but also for your safety. Dangerously high temperatures can cause a variety of heat-related illnesses ranging from stroke, cramps, and exhaustion. During extreme heat, your body is unable to cool itself off effectively. This can be due to a range of personal factors such as age, alcohol consumption, dehydration, fever, heart disease, obesity, poor circulation and sunburn.
Heatwaves and extreme heat have killed more people in Australia than any other natural weather-related disaster over the last 100 years including bushfires, floods and cyclones. More than 500 people die each year as a direct result of extreme heat and alarmingly the majority of these deaths could have been prevented.
So, as the mercury begins to rise, you should prepare your home and your family for the long and scorching hot days on the horizon. Stay cool in the extreme heat all summer long simply by following the tips below.
It is imperative that you are sensible during a heatwave. Prolonged sun exposure is inadvisable at the best of times but even a short period in the sun during a heatwave can cause dehydration, sunburn (at a much faster rate) or more seriously, heatstroke.
The best place for you to be during days of extreme heat is anywhere that has air-conditioning, but if you can’t avoid being outside, try to stay in the shade when you are outdoors, especially between 9:00am and 4:00pm.
Unfortunately, the Australian sun is extremely harsh and we have one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. More than 11,500 Australian men and women are diagnosed with a melanoma each year, which is why it’s important to be mindful and protect your skin during extreme heat.
Outdoor workers have a particularly high risk of skin cancer however; indoor workers also have a high risk of melanoma because they spend most of the week inside but are exposed to short bursts of intense sunlight on weekends and holidays.
It’s imperative when going outside to cover as much of your skin as possible and to apply an appropriate SPF sunscreen. It’s also wise to wear a wide-brimmed hat and UV protected sunglasses as well as attend regular skin checks.
Skin checks are a smart and easy way to keep up with your skin health and as an employer, it’s important to provide onsite screenings, along with education on sun protection and how to identify possible melanoma. To learn more about our skin checks or to get a quote, click here.
Dehydration can become a very serious condition, so it’s important to have access to water at all times throughout the day to keep hydration levels at a maximum. Cool water is best, but not too cold as it can cause cramping. You should always avoid tea, coffee, alcohol and fizzy or sugary drinks as they make the effects of dehydration worse.
Remember to drink plenty of water even if you don’t feel like it because by the time you are actually feeling thirsty, your body is already showing signs of dehydration.
Eat Spicy Food
Spicy food is always popular in countries with hot climates because ironically, it’s a great method of staying cool. The element that makes spicy food taste spicy is called capsaicin, which binds to your mouth’s pain receptors. Your brain responds to the heat of it by making you sweat, which then cools you down. This happens without raising the temperature of your body, which is why it is a brilliant way to cool yourself down in extreme heat.
Extremely hot weather is uncomfortable and it can also be dangerous with some serious health risks. If you feel any of the below symptoms, you need to drink plenty of water and find a cooler place that is out of the sun to lie down, especially if you experience any feelings of dizziness. Find ways to reduce your body heat with air conditioning or a fan, or maybe even with a nice, cool shower. If symptoms continue or get worse, call emergency services immediately.
Caused by the blocking of your sweat glands, heat rash looks like little red bumps and is commonly found in tropical climates with high humidity. Wearing light coloured, loose-fit clothing and staying in air-conditioned or well-cooled areas as much as possible are both key to preventing heat rashes.
To alleviate symptoms and pain related to heat rash, move to a less hot and humid location, remove unnecessary clothing and apply a cold compress.
Heat exhaustion is common for athletes and for people who work outdoors. Heat exhaustion is caused by extreme sweating after the body has experienced depletion of water or salt. As heat exhaustion sets in, perspiration decreases and the body is unable to cool itself down naturally, causing core temperatures to rise dramatically. Symptoms of heat exhaustion to look out for are weakness, headaches, and excessive or unquenchable thirst. Sports drinks with electrolytes should be consumed as well as water to counteract this type of heat exhaustion.
Working in hot environments combined with inadequate fluid intake can cause involuntary and painful muscle spasms called heat cramps. The most affected muscles when you have heat cramps are calves, abdominals, back and arms, but they can be experienced in any muscle group. This heat-related illness can be easily avoided by only working in cool areas such as ones with air-conditioning while also keeping yourself hydrated. If you are experiencing heat cramps, try resting somewhere cool and drinking an electrolyte beverage.
The most serious heat-related illness, heat stroke is when the body is unable to control or regulate its temperature, and often happens if someone not accustomed to high temperatures is exposed to weather with extreme heat. The rise in body temperate during heat stroke can cause other complications like swollen organs, which could be permanent.
Symptoms of heat stroke are often similar to a stroke and can include confusion, dizziness, hallucinations, slurred speech, feeling chilly, profuse sweating, throbbing headaches, low blood pressure, high body temperature, blue lips and nails, or skin that feels cool and clammy.
It’s crucial to call an ambulance immediately if someone is experiencing the signs and symptoms of a heat stroke.
This summer, remember to keep our tips in mind if you can’t avoid going outside and to always be aware of how your body is reacting to the heat. Stay in the shade, keep hydrated, and keep an eye on children and the elderly.