Good news! You don’t have to move to Canada or Norway to escape the harsh heat waves that affect Australian summer, where temptures can get up to 45 degrees Celsius up North, but you do need to drink plenty of water, obviously, just like if had binged on a bag of salt flakes. Then get some tips from this article and enjoy the summer.
Extreme heat can affect any one of us, especially if we’re spending outdoors in the heat of the day.
Those most at risk include older people, young children and those with chronic health conditions, in particular those with cardiovascular disease. The thing is, there are many people who are unaware they’re at risk of cardiovascular disease.
Who’s at risk?
Another group hit hard by hot weather are pregnant women.
“Lots of studies around the world now show higher temperatures are strongly associated with an increased risk for pre-term births,” Dr Barnett said.
Other people more affected by heat are those taking certain medications, such as blood-pressure-lowing medications, antidepressants and some allergy treatments.
Maintaining stable temperature
Your normal temperature is around 37 degrees Celsius. Sweating is the way your body keeps itself cool so you can maintain a stable temperature on a hot day or during exercise.
Sweating is caused by glands found all over the body, which have ducts that open out onto the skin. These sweat glands are activated in response to heat (and stress).
But when you sweat, you lose fluid, and if you start losing more fluid than you are taking in, you become dehydrated. This means you won’t be able to sweat as much, reducing your body’s ability to bring your temperature down.
Early signs of heat stress
Heat-related illnesses range from mild conditions such as heat rash or cramps, through to heat stroke, which can be fatal.
The effects of heat stress cascade, it’s important to know what the early signs look like.
Early signs of heat stress to look out for include:
- and heavy sweating.
“The skin can be cold and clammy. Loss of salt from sweating can produce cramping. Anyone showing these symptoms should be taken to a cool place, rested and given cold drinks [no alcohol],” Dr Barnett said.
What is heat stroke?
Heat stroke occurs when the core body temperature rises above 40.5C and the body’s internal systems start to shut down.
There can be liver, kidney, muscle and heart damage and very often, the person’s nervous system is affected, resulting in delirium, coma and seizures.
The skin may be dry with no sweating and a person may stagger, appear confused, fit, collapse and become unconscious.
Every minute’s delay in cooling a person with heat stroke increases the likelihood of permanent injury or death.
Preventing heat stress and heat stroke
The following can help you avoid heat-related illness:
- Drink water, lots of it: By the time you feel thirsty your body is already dehydrating, so drink keep having fluids even if you don’t feel thirsty. Avoid alcohol.
- Dress comfortably: Lose, light-weight clothing helps your body stay cool. Light-coloured clothing reflects heat and sunlight.
- Cool off: Take a cool shower or tepid bath if you’re feeling hot and flustered.
- Avoid exposure: Stay out of the sun if possible. If not, wear a shirt, hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. Sunburn will affect your body’s ability to cope with the heat.
- Seek air conditioning: If you don’t have air conditioning at home, spend the day somewhere that does, like a library, cinema or shopping centre. If you do have an air conditioner at home, make sure it has been serviced. Fans will also help you stay cool.
- Keep your environment cool: Draw curtains, blinds and awnings early in the day to keep the heat out of your home.
- If you or those close to you are suffering heat stress, call for help immediately: Symptoms of heat stress include extremely heavy sweating, headache and vomiting, confusion, swollen tongue.