Date Published: 6 February 2009
NSW Health urges caution this weekend
With temperatures across NSW likely to get as high as 47 degrees this weekend, NSW Health today advised the community to take the risk of heat-related illness, seriously.
Even before the weekend heat wave hits, there has been a marked upsurge in presentations to Emergency Departments. In January, 80 people were treated for heat-related illnesses, compared to an average of 41 over previous years. Ambulance call-outs have more than tripled, with 68 responses in January compared to an average of 20 in previous years.
Dr Jeremy McAnulty, Public Health Physician, NSW Health said that it is important that people take care of themselves, their families and their neighbours.
“It is vital that people are responsible about their own safety and make an effort to check on family members, friends and neighbours, at least twice a day. The elderly and children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of hot weather,” said Dr McAnulty.
“Extra precautions are also needed to look after people who are already ill. They need to be monitored and protected from the heat. They certainly need extra attention and care during hot spells.
And it is absolutely essential that children and pets are not left in cars. They will become distressed and seriously ill, in a matter of minutes.
Everyone needs to stay well hydrated. Carry water with you when you’re out and about. Keep out of the heat, avoid unnecessarily strenuous activity, and make the most of fans and air-conditioners. Only go into the sun if you really have to and when you do, keep the time outside limited, apply plenty of sunscreen, and wear a hat and long-sleeved shirt,” Dr McAnulty said.
Heat-related illnesses are a major health issue with over 1,000 deaths annually being attributable to heat in Australia.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion included nausea, faintness and dizziness, loss of appetite, weakness, headaches, vomiting, loss of sweating and reduced urine output. People showing these signs should be assisted to seek urgent medical attention through their GP or the Emergency Department of their nearest hospital.
Heat-related illness can range from mild conditions such as rash or cramps to very serious medical emergencies such as heat stroke.
Dr McAnulty warned that the rate of heart attack increases during extreme hot weather because the heart has to work harder to cope with the body’s higher temperature.
“While everyone is at risk of heat-related illness on particularly hot days, those at greatest risk are babies and young children; people over 65 years of age, people who are unwell – especially those with high blood pressure or heart disease – anyone exposed to high temperatures in their homes, workplace or at an event such as a sports carnival or festival.
Some medications interfere with the body’s ability to cool it self and make people more susceptible to heat-related illness.
Common sense plays a big part in staying well during a heat wave. Drink lots of water, stay out of the sun, don’t exert yourself and check-up on family, friends and neighbours. These are the key messages for getting through the next few days,” Dr McAnulty said.