How to keep cool in the summer heat

Published on 30 November 2023

A sandy stretch of beach heats up under a hot sun

Back in September, the Bureau of Meteorology officially declared an El Nino event for the first time in eight years.

What this means is that Australia, particularly the eastern states, can expect hot and dry conditions for the rest of the year, and severe heat throughout summer.

Extreme temperatures like this can have serious impacts on the body, with many people aged 65 years and over at increased risk of heat-related illnesses. These illnesses – including heat rashes and cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke – happen when the body cannot cool itself down properly and maintain a healthy temperature. This summer, it’s especially important to stay hydrated and avoid hot environments as much as possible.

The below guide is designed to help you stay healthy and safe during the coming months, and is based on information presented in the Department of Health’s ‘Survive the heat’ brochure. If you would like a physical copy of this brochure, which also includes information on the signs and symptoms or heat exhaustion and heatstroke, you can view it on their website here.

How can I prepare for extreme heat? 

As temperatures already start to climb, it’s a good idea to start preparing now for those hotter days and nights of summer.

  • Stock up on food, water and medicines so you don’t have to go out in the heat. Visit your doctor to check if changes are needed to your medicines during extreme heat
  • Store medicines safely at the recommended temperature. This information should be found on the medication packaging; otherwise, speak to your doctor or pharmacist
  • Check that your fan or air-conditioner works well. Have your air-conditioner serviced if necessary
  • Look at the things you can do to make your home cooler such as installing window coverings, shade cloths or external blinds on the sides of the house facing the sun 

How can I look after myself on hot days? 

On those especially hot days, we advise you take extra precautions to avoid any heat-related illnesses.

  • Drink plenty of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty (if your doctor normally limits your fluids, check how much to drink during hot weather)
  • Keep yourself cool by using wet towels, putting your feet in cool water and taking cool (not cold) showers
  • Spend as much time as possible in cool or air conditioned buildings (such as shopping centres, libraries, cinemas or community centres)
  • Block out the sun at home during the day by closing curtains and blinds
  • Stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day. If you have errands to run, see if a family member, friend or your support worker can manage these tasks for you
  • Wear a hat and light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing made from natural fibres like cotton and linen 

What should I do if I start to feel sick? 

If you start to feel unwell during the heat of the summer, visit your doctor or call NURSE-ON-CALL on 1300 60 60 24 for support and advice.

In an emergency, call triple zero (000), or go to the emergency department of your nearest hospital. 

We can all do our part to help protect one another during the summer months, so if you have friends or family members who are particularly vulnerable to the heat, be sure to check in on them regularly and make sure they’re feeling ok and, importantly, staying hydrated.

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