​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Preparing early can help protect you and the people you care for from the impacts of heat. Some of the following preparations can be done before summer arrives. Others can be done in the days before forecasted hot weather arrives.​

On this page

Preparations before summer

  • Check that air-conditioners, fans, refrigerators, and freezers are working properly.
  • Learn about safe food and medicine storage during hot weather, and especially during and after a power outage.
  • Make sure you have the contact details for people who may be able to help if you are in need.
  • Make a plan with family, friends and neighbours to keep in contact during hot weather.
  • Make sure you have contact details for your general practitioner, pharmacist, or other source of good health advice​ such as healthdirect​​.
  • Speak to your doctor if you have chronic health conditions or are on regular medications to discuss what to do during hot weather.
  • Know where in your local area you may be able to go to get relief from the heat. Places that may be cooler than your home include:
    • air-conditioned public buildings such as libraries and shopping centres
    • parks with plenty of vegetation and shade.
  • If you can, consider any changes you might make to your home to help keep it cooler in hot weather. More information is available at AdaptNSW and Your Home. Changes you can make include:
    • installing curtains or blinds on the side of your home that faces the sun to keep it cooler during hot weather
    • considering external awnings, shutters or other shading to prevent sun shining on windows
    • insulating your home to help reduce the indoor temperature when weather is hot and to maintain warmer temperature when cold.

Keep food safe

During hot weather, food can spoil more quickly and become unsafe to eat. Bacteria and other pathogens can grow and spread easily at room temperature.

Eating contaminated food can make you very unwell. Depending on the cause, symptoms may include diarrhoea, vomiting, fever, aches and pains, and can sometimes be fatal.​

To keep your food safe during hot weather:

  • make sure you properly store any food that needs to be refrigerated
  • defrost frozen foods in the fridge, not on the kitchen bench
  • clean up food preparation areas after use to remove pathogens
  • avoid over-crowding your fridge with leftovers as this can affect the temperature and increase risk of spoilage.

Visit the Food Authority of NSW website for more information about keeping food safe during hot weather and to view their hand​y checklist about safe food p​reparation.

For information on food safety in the event of a power outage see Staying safe and healthy during extended power outages.

Manage your medications

  • Most medications should be stored below 25 degrees Celsius.
  • Only store medicine in the refrigerator if the label says so, or if your doctor or pharmacist has told you to.
  • If you need to go out in hot weather, consider just taking the medicines you will need while you are out. Think about how you will keep these cool and dry.
  • If unsure, ask your pharmacist about how your medication should be stored.

For information on managing medications in the event of a power outage see Staying safe and healthy during extended power outages.

During and after a power failure

If a power failure affects your refrigerator or freezer there is a risk that some foods and medicines may become unsafe.

If you experience a power outage, make note of the time the power failed and keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.

For more information visit our Staying safe and healthy during extended power outages page.

It can be useful to keep a torch, radio (and batteries) and a first-aid kit handy.

Actions when hot weather is forecast

  • If you have air-conditioning that is used for both heating and cooling, make sure it is set to cool.
  • Stock up on food and drinks for your household and pets, and medicines to last the period of forecast hot weather so that you can avoid going out in the hottest part of the day.
  • Fill ice trays in your freezer or put some cool-packs in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Check in with family and friends who may be more at risk during hot weather to see if there is anything they might need to help them prepare.
  • Consider how changes in weather might impact planned daily activities and exercise routines.
  • Check alerts for roads and transport during extreme weather events and bushfires.

After the heat has passed

The strain of heat exposure, including disrupted sleep, can be felt after the hot weather has passed.

  • Stay aware of your health in the days following hot weather and seek medical help if you feel unwell.
  • Continue to drink plenty of water.
  • Take time to rest and recover.
  • Check on family and friends who may be more at risk of the health effects of heat.

For more information and advice

For health information and advice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week phone healthdirect on 1800 022 222.​

Current as at: Monday 18 December 2023
Contact page owner: Environmental Health