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Red Cross urges Victorians and South Australians to take care in heatwave

Friday January 30, 2009

Heatwaves killed more Australians during the twentieth century than any other natural hazard -- but few people are aware of the widespread dangers of heat-stress, says Noel Clement, Red Cross, as soaring temperatures cause blackouts, fires and serious health risks across the south-east of the country.

'Heatwaves are silent, 'hidden' disasters', says Noel Clement, Red Cross. 'They are also the most underrated of the natural disasters but heat can kill,' he added 'and the elderly and marginalised are often most at risk.'

There are some simple steps people can take to look after their own health, and that of others, during a heatwave like the one we are having now.

Keep out of the heat

  • try to plan your day in a way that allows you to stay out of the heat (Stay indoors or in the shade during the hottest part of the day (10am - 3pm)

  • if you cannot avoid strenuous activity like sport, DIY, or gardening, keep it for the cooler parts of the day such as early morning. If you must go out, stay in the shade. Wear a hat and light loose fitting clothes, preferably natural fibres.

  • go to an air-conditioned building in your local area to cool off -- a shopping mall, community centre, library or swimming pool.

Stay cool

  • if you can, stay inside, in the coolest rooms in the house (Reduce heat from sunlight coming through the windows using external shades or light-coloured curtains)

  • ensure there is sufficient air circulation, either from an air conditioner or by leaving a secured window or door open.

  • take a cool shower or splash yourself several times a day with cold water, particularly your face and the back of your neck. A loose, cotton, damp cloth or scarf on the back of the neck can also help you to stay cool.

Drink regularly
  • drink regularly, even if you do not feel thirsty. Water and fruit juice are best. (Avoid alcohol, tea and coffee and sugary drinks. They make dehydration worse.)

Get help

  • contact your local doctor for advice if you suffer heat related symptoms or call 000 in an emergency.

  • if you or someone you know shows signs of heat stroke (fits, confusion, staggering), call 000 immediately. Heat stroke is a life threatening emergency and can cause a person to collapse or fall unconscious.

Follow the Emergency REDiPlan links on the front page of our website and below for more information on preparing yourself and your household for emergencies.