18 December 2017

Beat the heat: Health warnings issued as capital set to sizzle

| Ian Bushnell
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Canberrans are being warned to prepare for a day of blast furnace heat with a forecast top temperature today (19 December) of 39 degrees Celsius, accompanied by an extreme UV rating and strong north-westerly winds.

Health authorities are warning people to take precautions to avoid heat-related illness, particularly the young and elderly.

The ACT Ambulance Service’s Commander Chris Barry said the service was bracing for a busy day but said there were plenty of things people could do to prevent the heat getting the better of them.

He said people working outdoors should minimise their exposure to sun, and wear loose clothing and headwear.

“Make sure you’re hydrated, keep the fluids up, and if you have to work see if you can do that in the cooler parts of the day,” he said.

The worst part of the day was after 2.30 pm when the heat was at its peak but people could still be affected at any time of the day.

Commander Barry said symptoms to be aware of included headache, dizziness, nausea, and general lethargy, but for some of the older people these were not always present.

“Prevention is the cure. The amount of time and resources that can be taken up in the community to treat someone in a hospital or pre-hospital setting can be easily fixed by looking after yourself and hydrating well,” he said.

Dr Paul Kelly and Commander Chris Barry discuss measures people can take to beat the heat. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

Chief Health Officer Dr Paul Kelly said heat could be a factor in severe illness particularly for the young, elderly, pregnant, obese and the chronically ill, with some medications exacerbating the problem.

“Heat can be serious, particularly if it’s over several days and it doesn’t cool down at night and that’s some of the conditions we’re predicted to see this week,” Dr Kelly said.

He echoed Commander Barry’s call to stay hydrated, out of the sun, and consider what to wear.

“Watch the colour of your urine, if that is getting to dark yellow that is getting to be a sign that you might need to have more water, the fluid of choice,” he said.

Avoid alcohol and caffeine drinks because they can make dehydration worse

Dr Kelly said that for people at home without air conditioning keeping cool can be difficult but a fan would help.

“So watch what you’re wearing, you can have a cool shower, cool drinks, and cool food,” he said.

“If it continues during the day look for somewhere to go where there is air conditioning – shopping centres, libraries, go and see a movie – those sorts of things are practical suggestions.”

The Bureau of Meteorology says Wednesday will be cooler but still 32 degrees, with a cool change for Thursday before temperatures again head over 30 degrees, climbing to 36 degrees by Sunday.

The bushfire rating for Wednesday on the Emergency Services Authority website is Very High.

For practical and simple tips to beat the heat go here.

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