Heatwaves and hot weather

Heatwaves and hot weather have killed more people in Australia than any other disaster. Here's how you can beat the heat and keep cool this summer.

Do you know how to cope with a heatwave?

Heatwaves not only affect your daily activities, but can be a serious risk to your health and wellbeing.

It's not just another hot day. Heatwaves and hot weather kill more people in Australia than bushfires, cyclones and any other hazard, so it's important to adapt your activities and have a plan to keep cool. They can affect both our physical and our mental health.

Heatwaves can be dangerous for anyone, but they're especially dangerous for older people, young children, outdoor workers and people with a medical condition. However, there are lots of things you can do to help yourself – and your family, friends, neighbours and pets - beat the heat and keep cool this summer.

Before the heatwave

Get organised
  • Learn about the Heatwave warnings from the Bureau of Meteorology. Make a plan for what you will do for each level of warning: low level, severe, extreme.
  • Talk to the doctor about how the heat might affect you, particularly about your medications. Store medicines safely at the recommended temperature.
  • Look at the things you can do to make your home cooler such as installing awnings or shade cloths, or cooling units. Service air-conditioning or fan units
  • Check the forecast. This will help you prepare ahead for shopping and scheduling appointments. Stock up on food, water and medicines.
  • Think about how extreme heat affects you, both you physical and your mental health.
  • Ensure your pets are also well hydrated and have plenty of shade when they are outside.

Get connected
  • Identify your support network. Include people who can help you get things you need during and after a heatwave. This could be family, friends, neighbours or a carer.
  • Write down your important numbers (doctors, support network) .
  • Keep in touch with friends, neighbours and relatives, particularly if they're unwell or isolated.

During a heatwave

Stay cool
  • Stay indoors: keep out of the heat if you can.
  • If you need to go outside, wear light clothing and a hat, put on sunscreen and take water with you.
  • Do daily activities like shopping and gardening early in the day or ask someone to help you.
  • Draw blinds early in the day.
  • Turn your air-conditioner on before the room heats up
  • Take cool showers and splash yourself several times a day with cold water, or use a damp cloth.
  • Go to an air-conditioned building in your local area to cool off: a shopping mall, community centre, cinema, library or swimming pool.

Drink plenty of water
  • Even when you don't feel thirsty, drink plenty of water.
  • Avoid alcohol, tea, coffee and sugary or fizzy drinks. They make dehydration worse.
  • Eat small meals more often, rather than large meals. And eat more cold food like salads and fruit.

Get help

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.

Here are some tips on how to identify the signs and symptoms of heatstroke and heat exhaustion and what you should do.

If you or someone you know feels as though the heat is affecting your mental health (feeling more anxious, having disturbing thoughts), seek help. Seek help from caregivers, or crisis lines (Lifeline 13 11 14) if the situation becomes challenging to manage.

file_download Download the How to prepare for a heatwave fact sheet.

Are you ready?

There are simple and practical steps you can take to protect yourself, the people you love, and the things you value most. Do one simple thing to make you safer.
Donate to Australian Red Cross Donate to Australian Red

Charity donations of $2 or more to Australian Red Cross may be tax deductible in Australia. Site protected by Google Invisible reCAPTCHA. © Australian Red Cross 2023. ABN 50 169 561 394