When the weather is very hot, the body has to work very hard and produce a lot of sweat to keep itself cool. Under some conditions, sweating just isn’t enough and a person’s body temperature rises rapidly.
Exposure to high temperatures can make existing illnesses seriously worse (for example trigger a heart attack), cause serious permanent injuries (damage to the brain or other vital organs) as a result of untreated heat stroke, and in extreme cases result in death.
Signs of heat-related illness include: dizziness, tiredness, irritability, thirst, fainting, muscle pains or cramps, headache, changes in skin colour, rapid pulse, shallow breathing, vomiting and confusion.
During extremely hot weather, it is easy to become dehydrated (lose too much water from your body) or for your body to overheat. If this happens you may develop heat cramps, heat exhaustion or even heatstroke. If you suffer from any chronic health conditions, your condition may become worse during a period of hot weather.
Everyone needs to take care in hot weather but some people are at higher risk of heat illness, especially if they live alone or are socially isolated. These groups include:
Heat waves or long periods of extreme heat can have serious impacts on people's health. Planning ahead and being prepared for extreme heat is important. Remember to:
It is a good idea to prepare for the heat before it arrives. You can prepare your house or apartment by:
Hot weather is one contributor to increasing bushfire risk.
On hot, smoky days take precautions to reduce your exposure to high heat and smoke. Stay cool and out of smoky conditions by avoiding vigorous outdoor activity and spending more time indoors with the doors and windows shut. Closing window curtains or blinds can keep the inside of your house cool. If you don’t have access to air conditioning at home, or the smoke is inside your house, spend time in air conditioned indoor venues like cinemas, libraries and shopping centres.
In an emergency, call Triple Zero (000) or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.
To ensure all hospitals deliver continuous health services during summer when electrical supply may be affected by extreme heat conditions, NSW Health ensures all facilities comply with the Australian Standards regarding emergency power supply.
All hospitals have emergency backup generators to guarantee there is no disruption to life-saving medical equipment, and areas that require essential power supply.
These generators are routinely tested to confirm they are in working order should they be required if the mains grid is disrupted. These inspections also include a risk assessment to establish mitigations measures should power supply affect air-conditioning systems.
Three or more days of high maximum and minimum temperatures that are unusual for that location. Heatwaves finish when temperatures fall to more normal levels.
The Bureau of Meteorology operates the Heatwave Service which is a set of maps showing colour-coded heatwave severity for the previous two three-day periods, and the next five three-day periods. Visit:
Heatwave Service for Australia
You may be affected if the map shows a heatwave is current in your area, or you are close to a heatwave region. If this is the case, you should take precautions to reduce your exposure to high heat and follow advice from NSW Health or your doctor. Check areas affected on the Bureau of Meteorology's website:
Heatwave Service for Australia
Climate projections show that extreme heat events are expected to occur more often and with greater intensity in the future.
Alcoholic, hot or sugary drinks including tea and coffee can make dehydration worse. During extreme heat, water is recommended as the drink of choice to rehydrate.