Heat Wave Advice for Older People

When it is very hot, you may be at increased risk of heat related illness, especially if you have medical conditions or take certain medicines. The following advice will help you to put together a plan for coping during extreme heat: 
  • Ask a friend or family member to check on you twice a day if possible during extreme heat, especially if you live alone.
  • Symptoms of heat stress include:
    - headaches 
    - feeling dizzy, faint or weak 
    - urinating less often 
    - muscle spasms or cramps
    - nausea
  • If you start to feel ill with symptoms of heat stress you should seek medical attention by: 
    - contacting your GP
    - calling healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222; or
    - going to the Emergency Department of your nearest hospital.

If you have more serious symptoms of heat stress, such as vomiting, becoming confused or having hot red or dry skin (because sweating has stopped), you should call 000 for an ambulance straight away. 

  • If the house is hot and you have an air conditioner (AC), turn on the AC. Make sure it is set to ‘cool’ before turning it on. Visiting air conditioned local libraries or shopping centres can also offer some relief. 
  • Make sure you drink plenty of fluids, even if you do not feel thirsty, unless your Doctor has advised you not to. Try to drink water or diluted fruit juice and avoid tea, coffee or alcohol.  
  • Eat smaller meals more often during hot weather and try to eat more cold meals, such as salads and fruit as these also help you hydrate. Ensure that food that needs refrigeration is not left out. Using stoves or ovens less often also keeps the temperature cooler in your home.
  • If you take prescribed medicines, you must continue to take these during periods of extreme heat.
  • Some medicines can make you more prone to sunburn and heat stress, so extra care should be taken to watch for signs that you are becoming affected by the heat. If you need more advice on particular medicines, speak to your doctor or a pharmacist.
  • Wear light coloured, loose fitting clothing, preferably made from natural fibres like cotton or linen, and avoid synthetic fabrics.
  • If you use a wheelchair, walker or any other metal equipment, make sure it is kept in the shade as it can quickly become hot to touch and even cause a burn.
If going outdoors, even for a short time always:
  • apply sunscreen; and
  • wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. Make sure you take your sunglasses off again before going inside and take a minute to let your eyes adjust from the bright sunlight.
 Some simple steps to help you keep cool:
  • rinse a cloth in cool water and use it to wipe your arms and neck;
  • sleep with just a sheet over you;
  • put your feet in a bowl of cool water;
  • make ice cubes from water or cordial and suck them to keep cool; and/or
  • put a bowl of ice cubes in front of a fan to create a cool breeze.
For more information on how to keep healthy during extreme heat, visit the Health Department's website

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