25 January 2019

Don't wilt in the Australia Day heat

| Ian Bushnell
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Here we go again: Australia Day is tipped to be a scorching 40 degrees in the capital.

Australia Day in the capital is going to be sizzling, and we’re not talking about the barbecues.

Health authorities are warning Canberrans and visitors out and about celebrating the day in event areas around Lake Burley Griffin such as Commonwealth Park, Regatta Point and the Patrick White Lawns to take precautions to weather the forecast extreme heat conditions.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the outdoors, the 40-degree oven is back, after a record four consecutive 40-plus days last week.

Don’t prepare and the consequences could not only ruin your Australia Day but result in serious illness.

Acting ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman and ACT Ambulance Service Chief Officer Howard Wren are urging people to enjoy their Australia Day celebrations safely by knowing how to avoid heat-related stress.

“It’s important for the community to be aware of the risks associated with prolonged periods of hot weather, in particular those in our community that are more vulnerable,” Dr Coleman said.

“Everyone can be susceptible to heat-related stress and illness in the heat, that’s why people need to stay hydrated and stay cool. This is particularly for the elderly, pregnant women, young children and babies who are most at risk.

“Summer safety tips to beat the heat are on the ACT Health website, which we encourage people to hop online and check them out.”

Mr Wren said people would need to take extra precautions when enjoying the outdoors during Australia Day celebrations.

“It’s particularly important people seek shade during the hottest parts of the day, drink plenty of water and limit their alcohol consumption,” Mr Wren said.

To ease the symptoms of heat stress do the following:

  • try to get the person to a cooler environment;
  • lay the person down;
  • cool them by applying cool, wet towels around the neck and underarms; and
  • if conscious, give cool fluids (preferably water) to drink.

“People with these symptoms should also be assisted to seek medical attention through their GP or in an emergency by calling triple zero (000) for an ambulance,” Mr Wren said.

Dr Coleman said that with many people hosting lunches and out at barbecues on the day, they were also at risk of food poisoning, with food spoiling much quicker than on cooler days.

“That’s why proper handling of food is really important. This includes storing cold food under 5°C and hot food above 60°C and not keeping perishables, such as salads, quiches and cold meats out of the fridge for longer than four hours,” she said.

For more information on summer safety and preventing heat-related illness, go here.

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