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How to prepare for a heatwave

Simple steps you can take to help when the weather heats up.

Learn how to stay cool, avoid risks and identify heat exhaustion and heat stroke while staying COVID-safe.



Get in the know about the risk of heatwave and extreme hot weather

Heatwaves can kill. Extreme heat can be dangerous for anyone, but the risk of heat-related illness increase for:

  • people aged over 65
  • pregnant women
  • babies and young children
  • anyone experiencing anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress, or anyone with a medical condition that makes it hard to regulate their body temperature 
  • people new to an area or who are isolated
  • for people with lingering COVID-19 related health issues.

When temperatures climb, there are things you can do to stay safe and healthy, and help others.

  • Learn the signs of heat stress, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. And make sure you can differentiate between this and COVID-19 symptoms. Untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention.
  • Be aware that heatwave risk is increased for people with COVID-19, or people who have lingering COVID-19 related health issues.
  • Download the Red Cross First Aid App or print out this guide and put it on your fridge.
  • Check the forecast and plan ahead for shopping and appointments.
  • Get to know the Bureau of Meteorology’s categories of heatwaves.
  • If you have a medical condition – particularly, cardiovascular disease or mental health illness – talk to your doctor about how heat may affect you.
  • Get plenty of sleep and connect with LifeLine if you are experiencing a personal crisis.
  • Know the facts about heat and COVID-19. The virus spreads just as quickly in warm weather as colder conditions. Continue to act COVID-safely.



Get connected and learn how to prepare for heatwaves before the mercury rises

Prepare your mind by thinking about how hot weather affects your mood and ability to think clearly. Get connected with these simple steps:

  • identify three key support people. Include people who can help you with practical assistance, as well as emotional support and reassurance. Make sure you can connect with them virtually if you need to physically distance
  • download our Get Prepared App to help you prepare for any emergency
  • write down important phone numbers
  • keep in touch with friends, neighbours and relatives, particularly if they're unwell or isolated. Ensure you can connect with them online or over the phone



Get organised with these straightforward ideas and tips

Before it heats up, get prepared:

  • look at the things you can do to make your home cooler, like installing awnings or shade cloths
  • check fans and air-conditioners are clean and working well. A clean fan helps keep ventilation fresh
  • stock up on food, water and medicines, and put ice blocks and packs in the freezer
  • store medicines safely at the recommended temperature

There are ways to keep cool when the temperature rises:

  • stay inside and keep out of the heat as much as possible
  • if you go outside, wear light clothes, a hat and sunscreen, and take water. If you are wearing a mask take extra precautions to stay cool
  • plan shopping, appointments, exercise and gardening for early in the day, or ask someone to help
  • keep your home cool by drawing the blinds, turning on fans or air-conditioners and opening doors and windows at night
  • take cool showers, splash yourself with cold water, or use a cool damp cloth to cool off
  • keep an eye on your mood and ability to think and plan. Seek support if you’re worried
  • cool off at an air-conditioned shopping mall, community centre, library or your local swimming pool, but stay COVID-safe
  • avoid crowded indoor public spaces, but if you must cool off at an air-conditioned public venue, like a shopping mall or library, wear a mask, maintain physical distancin, and wash and sanitise hands regularly 
  • try cooling off in the shade at public outdoor spaces such as parks and outdoor pools. But maintain a safe social distance from others
  • drink plenty of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Avoid alcohol, tea, coffee and sugary drinks. If you are in a public space take a water bottle and avoid high touch bubblers or water fountains
  • eat small meals and cold foods like salads and fruit.

Babies and children are especially at risk from dehydration. Keep them safe by encouraging children to drink plenty of water. Watch for dark urine and check the frequency of nappy changes.

Ensure pets are well hydrated and have plenty of shady spots outside.



Get to know the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke

Heat exhaustion is a condition caused by your body overheating. Left untreated, it can lead to heat stroke, a life-threatening condition that occurs when your core body temperature reaches 40°C or higher.

  • Learn how to recognise and treat signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
  • Understand the difference between these symptoms and those associated with COVID-19. Similar covid symptoms include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, breathing difficulty, tiredness, muscle pain and headaches.
  • Download the Red Cross First Aid App to keep in an emergency.
  • Heat stroke is a serious condition. A person can collapse or fall unconscious. The signs and symptoms of heat stroke include:
    • red, hot and dry skin
    • rapid, strong pulse
    • rapid, noisy breathing
    • body temperature above 40°C
    • typically, no longer sweating
    • irrational or aggressive behaviour
    • deterioration of consciousness
  • If you or someone you know shows signs of heat stroke, including fits, confusion and staggering, call 000 immediately.

Get Prepared app

Build and keep your emergency plan close at hand with our app.