Hot weather can cause serious health problems, and some people in our community are at greater risk of serious health effects than others. Anyone who cares for, supports or assists people at risk of serious health effects from hot weather can play a key role in keeping them healthy during a heat wave. It is important that people at risk are encouraged to manage their health appropriately in hot weather and visit their GP if necessary.

The following includes tips on what you can do to keep someone healthy during a heat wave:

  • identify a person at risk, please see People most at risk
  • help to prepare them for a heat wave
  • help them during a heat wave
  • what you can do after a heat wave.

Remember the 4 key messages to keep you and others healthy in the heat

1. Drink plenty of water. 2. Keep cool. 3. Take care of others. 4. Have a plan! 

How to prepare for a heat wave

The following are some ideas of how to help prepare a person at risk of serious health effects from hot weather for a heat wave.

For the person

  • check that extra care and support is available if needed
  • check they know who to call if they need help
  • check they have the contact details for their GP, care workers, carers and others that may be able to assist (family, friends and neighbours)
  • check that their care plan includes information on:
    • how much they should drink (especially if the person is on a fluid restriction), and
    • their personal medication (some medications may affect what the person should do if it gets very hot)
  • if they don't have a care plan, help to arrange a visit to the GP to determine a special care plan for hot weather
  • check that the person has light, loose-fitting cotton clothing to wear.

In their house or apartment

  • check that the fridge, freezer, fan and air-conditioner work properly and that the air-conditioner is set to cool
  • help them to stock up with food before the hot weather arrives to reduce the need to go out
  • check they have cool packs available to put in the fridge to help them cool down
  • help them to put together a small emergency kit in case of a power failure– this may include a torch, batteries, candles, matches, a battery operated radio and a first aid kit
  • check their home or room can be aired properly and safely (for example without the need of leaving the front door wide open in an unsafe area)
  • if possible, add curtains with pale linings in rooms that get a lot of sunlight to help reflect the heat. Avoid dark reflective curtain linings and metal Venetian blinds as they take up heat and can make rooms hotter
  • consider putting external blinds, shutters or some other shading on windows in rooms which face west
  • create a cool room for them to go to during very hot weather. This room ideally should be east or south facing in the house and be cooled by: using indoor and outdoor shading; ventilation when it’s colder outdoors than indoors, and; use of a fan or air-conditioning
  • consider the risk of bushfires as they often occur on days of high temperature. Information on bushfire preparedness is available from the NSW Rural Fire Service.

How to help someone during a heatwave

The following are some ideas of how to help a person at risk of serious health effects from hot weather during a heat wave.

For the person

  • check that they’re drinking plenty of water – encourage them if necessary and place water in the fridge. A good way to check whether they are drinking enough is to get them to check the colour of their urine (see urine colour chart). If it is pale, they are drinking enough
  • check that they know who to contact if extra care and support is needed
  • talk to their family and friends and let them know how to best support their family member
  • if you think they’re not coping, arrange a visit to their GP for them
  • check that they have a care plan with information on how much they should drink (especially if the person is on a fluid restriction). If the information is not there, call their GP to discuss
  • check that they have enough food for the next few days and if not, help them to arrange this
  • check that they are wearing light, loose-fitting cotton clothing
  • check that they have cool packs in the fridge or else cool wet cloths/washers available
  • consider offering to take them to a cool place like a shopping centre, library or cinema
  • remind them to do household chores early in the morning before the weather gets hot
  • encourage them to pursue activities that are easily done indoors such as reading, sewing, listening to radio programs.

In their house or apartment

  • check that the fridge, freezer, fan and air-conditioner work properly and that the air-conditioner is set to cool
  • close windows, curtains, blinds and shutters early in the day before the weather gets hot especially on windows facing west
  • arrange for or remind them to ventilate their room or home as soon as the temperature outside drops, e.g. in the late evening or early in the morning
  • encourage the person to spend most of their time in coolest room in the house during very hot weather.

A note on drinking recommendations

It is important that people drink enough fluids during hot weather, even if they are not feeling thirsty. For most people, the following fluids are suitable: water, icy poles, diluted fruit juice (1 part juice in 4 parts water) or weak cordial. Each older person and people at risk should receive personalised drinking recommendations. This is best done by their GP and is particularly important for people with a restricted fluid intake.

A good way to find out if someone is drinking enough is by checking their urine colour. If the urine is pale, they are drinking enough. Please refer to the urine colour chart.

What to do after a heat wave

The following are some ideas of what you could do after a heat wave.

For the person

  • discuss with the person what could have been done better to help them get through
  • it might also be useful to discuss this with the person’s family and to identify ways to increase the person’s support if needed
  • write down possible improvements for the next heat wave.

In their house or apartment

  • go through the checklist on the previous pages and note down improvements that can be made in the person’s house or apartment.

For more information, download the booklet How to keep someone healthy during hot weather.

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Page Updated: Friday 2 December 2016