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Heatwave

What is a heatwave?

A heatwave is a period of unusual and uncomfortably hot weather that can affect anybody. It can also affect community infrastructure such as the power supply, public transport and other services.

Heatwaves can make existing medical conditions worse and cause a heat-related illness, which may be fatal.

  • Heat has killed more Australians than any natural disaster.
  • 374 people died in 2009 and 167 people died in 2014 due to extreme heat in Victoria.
  • Drink water Even if you don't feel thirsty, drink water. Take a bottle with you always.
  • Hot cars kill Never leave kids, adults or pets in cars. The temperature inside a parked car can double within minutes.
  • Keep cool Seek out air-conditioned buildings, draw your blinds, use a fan, take cool showers and dress in light and loose clothing made from natural fabrics.
  • Plan ahead Schedule activities in the coolest part of the day and avoid exercising in the heat. If you must go out, wear a hat and sunscreen and take a bottle of water with you.
  • Help others Look after those most at risk in the heat – your neighbour living alone, the elderly, the young, people with a medical condition and don’t forget your pets.
  • For more information visit betterhealth.vic.gov.au or download the Better Health Channel app
  • Call NURSE-ON-CALL on 1300 60 60 24 or see your doctor if you feel unwell. In an emergency, call 000.

How to stay cool in the heat

  • Look after yourself and keep in touch with sick or frail friends, neighbours and relatives.
  • 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 your library or Community Centre (a list of locations is available via the link on the top of this page).
  • Block out the sun at home during the day by closing curtains and blinds. Open the windows when there is a cool breeze.
  • Don’t leave children, adults or animals in parked vehicles.
  • Stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day.

If you must go out, stay in the shade and take plenty of water with you. Wear a hat and light-coloured, loose‑fitting clothing.

  • Eat smaller meals more often and cold meals such as salads. Make sure food that needs refrigeration is properly stored.
  • Avoid strenuous activity like sport, home improvements and gardening.
  • Watch or listen to news reports that provide more information during a heatwave.

Preparing for hot weather

  • Check that your fan or air-conditioner works well. Have your air-conditioner serviced if necessary.
  • Stock up on food, water and medicines so you don’t have to go out in the heat.
  • Ensure that your pets have plenty of water and shade.
  • Store medicines safely at the recommended temperature.
  • Look at the things you can do to make your home cooler such as installing awnings, shade cloths or external blinds on the sides of the house facing the sun.

Preparing for a power failure

  • Think about what you would do if a heatwave caused loss of electricity or disrupted public transport.
  • Ensure you have a torch, fully charged mobile phone or a telephone that will work without electricity, a battery‑operated radio and sufficient batteries.
  • Please download the Guide to Power Outages brochure from Energy Safe Victoria for further helpful tips on preparing for a Power outage.

Who is most at risk?

Those most at risk in a heatwave are:

  • people aged over 65 years, especially those living alone
  • people who have a medical condition such as diabetes, kidney disease or mental Illness
  • people taking medications that may affect the way the body reacts to heat such as:
    • allergy medicines (antihistamines)
    • blood pressure and heart medicines (beta-blockers)
    • seizure medicines (anticonvulsants)
    • water pills (diuretics)
    • antidepressants or antipsychotics
  • people with problematic alcohol or other drug use
  • people with a disability who may not be able to identify or communicate their discomfort or thirst
  • people who have trouble moving around (such as those who are bed bound or in wheelchairs)
  • people who are overweight or obese
  • pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, babies and young children
  • people who work or are physically active outdoors.
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