Summer 2020/21 will look a little different this year. As we move into the summer months, including potential heatwaves or long periods of extreme heat, it’s vital we also continue to keep our community safe from COVID-19.

COVID safe advice for a hot summer

It’s important to prepare yourself and stay safe in the heat. Babies and children, older people and those with a chronic illness are more at a risk during a heat wave.

While managing a heatwave might be a bit different this year due to COVID-19, make sure you always stay COVID safe wherever you are:

  • Keep in touch with relatives, friends and neighbours, especially those who are elderly, living alone or isolated, when the weather heats up. Be COVID safe: give them a call or check in virtually by email, social media or video
  • Monitor for symptoms. Symptoms of heat-related illness include lethargy, dizziness, headache and thirst. If you develop symptoms you should rest and seek out a cool place. If your symptoms are severe, seek medical help immediately and call Triple Zero (000) if it’s an emergency
  • Some symptoms of heat-related illness may be similar to COVID-19 symptoms such as fever and shortness of breath. Get tested if you have any COVID-19 symptoms
  • Create cool rooms in your home to go to during extreme heat. South facing rooms cooled by indoor and outdoor shading, fans or air-conditioning are best. If you are self-isolating due to COVID-19, stay separated from people you live with
  • Seek out local cool places if it’s too hot at home. If you visit air-conditioned indoor venues like cinemas, libraries, shopping centres and other public buildings, stay COVID safe: keep 1.5 metres apart from people you don’t live with, wash your hands often and wear a face mask if you can’t physically distance
  • Stay hydrated if you’re heading outdoors and it’s a hot day. Remember that public water fountains may be closed due to COVID-19 so always carry water with you. Stay 1.5 metres apart if queuing at a water fountain
  • Consider the heat if planning a COVID safe summer outdoors. Seek out the shade and cool breezes. Avoid being outside during the hottest part of the day and always carry water. Stay COVID safe and follow COVID-19 rules for outdoor gatherings
  • Prepare your house for the heat if you are working from home over summer due to COVID-19.

Frequently asked questions

What should I do if I have a heat-related illness (e.g. heat stroke)? Do I need to get tested for COVID-19?

Symptoms of heat-related illness can be varied, including tiredness, feeling unwell, cramps, high body temperatures, confusion, shortness of breath and fits. Anyone can be affected by becoming overheated. Early stages of heat-related illness like dehydration, heat rash or heat cramps can be treated by effective first aid:

  • drink plenty of water
  • use cool packs
  • stop strenuous physical activity
  • move to a cool location.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency so it is important you don’t delay treatment. Call Triple Zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.

Some symptoms of heat-related illness may be similar to COVID-19 symptoms such as fever and shortness of breath. Get tested if you have any COVID-19 symptoms.

Heat can also make existing medical conditions or chronic illnesses worse, so make sure you speak to your GP before summer about how to manage your health in the heat.

How should I look after my elderly or isolated relatives, friends or neighbours in a heatwave during the COVID-19 pandemic?

When the weather heats up make sure you keep in touch with relatives, neighbours and friends, especially those living alone or who are isolating and waiting for a COVID-19 test result.

Be COVID safe: Give them a call or check in virtually by email, social media or video call. Consider asking them if they are prepared for the heat and a COVID summer:

  • Have they spoken to their GP about staying healthy in the heat?
  • Is their home prepared for the heat? For example, is there cold water in the fridge and is the air conditioner set to cool?
  • Do they know who to call in an emergency?

Who is at greater risk in hot weather (including heatwaves) during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The people most vulnerable to heat at any time are babies and young children, older people and those who are socially isolated or have a chronic illness, and this risk is increased during a heatwave.

Dure to COVID-19, there a re more people staying at home and, if their home is now well prepared for the heat, they might be at risk of developing a heat-related illness.

Prepare to stay healthy in the heat. Think about your home, your health and your community and make plans now.

Is it safe to use public drinking fountains or water bubblers during COVID-19 if there’s a heatwave?

Many public drinking fountains and water bubblers are closed due to COVID-19 as they are a risk for transmission of the virus. Always remember to carry water with you when you go outside and stay hydrated in the heat.

If you do use a public drinking fountain or water bubbler, do it in a COVID safe way:

  • line up 1.5metres apart from other people
  • sanitise your hands before and after touching the tap
  • don’t place your mouth on the spout of the fountain
  • let the water run for a few seconds before drinking.

Current COVID-19 health advice is to gather outdoors or open windows and doors when inside to improve ventilation and help reduce transmission of COVID-19. During a heatwave we would normally close windows and doors to keep the heat out. What should I do?

If hosting a gathering at home, NSW Health recommends these take place outdoors in the backyard or courtyard and to avoid the hottest part of the day. However, during a heatwave, it can be unsafe to be outdoors due to high temperatures. It is best to postpone or reschedule outdoor gatherings during a heatwave and on extremely hot days.

If you are indoors with your household, it is safe to close windows and blinds and turn on the air conditioning to manage extreme heat. It is important to avoid indoor gatherings in enclosed or unventilated spaces with people who don’t live with, so make sure you keep an eye on the weather and postpone having visitors during heatwaves or extremley hot days.

I would normally use fans and air conditioners to keep cool. I’ve heard that tiny COVID-19 droplets can be carried further by air that is pushed in a single direction from an infected person towards others. What should I do during a heatwave?

Fans and air conditioners can be used within your household if there is no one with COVID-19 or self-isolating due to COVID-19 exposure. If a household member has to isolate, please create seperate cool rooms within your house. Avoid visitors in your home on very hot days to reduce potential spread of COVID-19 from fan and air conditioner use.

For additional safety, if fans are used, take steps to limit air blowing form one person directly at another to reduce the potential spread of virus.

All air conditioning and ventilation systems should be in good working order and regularly cleaned.

Is it safe to go to shopping centres, cinemas and other air-conditioned places when there’s a heatwave during COVID-19?

During a heatwave it is best to stay in your well-prepared and cool home. Avoid crowded places if you have other options to stay cool. However, if it is too hot at home, seek out other cool places to protect your health. Know where your local cool places are ahead of time.

If you go to air-conditioned indoor venues like cinemas, libraries, shopping centres and other public buildings, stay COVID safe:

  • keep 1.5metres apart from people you don’t live with
  • wash your hands often
  • wear a face mask if you can’t physically distance.

Where can we cool off if places like the beach, public pool, lake or river are too crowded?

Check the capacity of beaches to see if they are too crowded at the Beach Safe website.

Use Local Government websites to find less crowded local cool places such as national parks and places with shade and breezes. If you can’t be outside or places are too crowded, prepare your home to be cool and stay at home during the hottest parts of the day.

Will there be more blackouts because so many more people are working at home using air-conditioners this summer?

Energy providers work hard to make sure that peak demand can be met in a heatwave.

Having a small emergency kit at home with a torch, batteries, a battery-operated radio and a first aid kit is always a good idea.

Will restaurants and cafes still seat people outside even when there’s a heatwave?

Keep an eye on the weather and avoid sitting outside in the sun if it is going to be a very hot day. If you are outside in the heat remember to stay hydrated and seek out the shade and breeze.

What should I do in the heat if I have a medical condition/disability?

We understand this is a difficult situation, please consider reaching out to a family member or friend if you are concerned or need support.

If you can stay home and keep cool, please do so. If your home cannot be cooled, and you need to find a cool place, then please consider going to air-conditioned venues, like cinemas, libraries, shopping centres and other public buildings that are spacious, and uncrowded indoor spaces.

You may like to consider alternative venues such as large, spacious hospitality venues where this isn't crowding. People with medical conditions are especially vulnerable to heat so it is not advisable to be outdoors during a heatwave.

Please continue to maintain physical distancing of 1.5 metres. Face masks should be worn if physical distancing is not possible. If you have a medical emergency, please call Triple Zero (000) or visit an emergency room.

Summer 2020/21 will look a little different this year. As we move into the summer months, including potential heatwaves or long periods of extreme heat, it’s vital we also continue to keep our community safe from COVID-19.

It’s too hard to wear a face mask in the heat. What should I do?

If you are having trouble breathing on a hot day, you should not wear a face mask. Speak to your doctor about a management plan during hot weather. Remember to keep 1.5 metres away from people you don't live with and wash your hands often.

Remember, COVID-19 migh re-emerge in the community. While a mask in hot wather may be uncomfortable, for most people it's unlikely to cause you ill.

What if I need to get tested for COVID-19 when there’s a heatwave – will there be enough shade or air-conditioning at the testing clinic?

Most COVID-19 testing clinics are located indoors with air conditioning or are drive throughs where you remain in your car’s air conditioning. We recommend people keep hydrated by bringing a water bottle. For walk-in testing clinics, shade is provided and we also recommend you stay sun smart by wearing appropriate clothing.

Clinics have measures in place to protect staff from the heat.

Current as at: Monday 30 November 2020
Contact page owner: Environmental Health