Stay healthy in the heat

Family in a park

Heatwaves can have a significant impact on the community’s health, causing serious illness and in some cases death. In fact, heatwaves cause more deaths than any other type of natural disaster in Australia.

The information below provides advice on who is vulnerable during a heatwave and what you can do to prepare and stay healthy when it gets hot.

What is a heatwave?
How could you be affected?
Who is vulnerable in a heatwave?
What can you do? Before a heatwave and during a heatwave
Heatwave tips from Senior Sergeant Ciaran Boyle - Richmond Police

What is a heatwave?

A heatwave is a period of extreme high temperature, normally defined as a 24-hour period where the average temperature is 30°C or more.  

Could you be affected?

Heat can be harmful to your health. In addition to causing illness and fatality, heatwaves can also have a harmful effect on our infrastructure, our economy, our agriculture, our social cohesion and our biodiversity. During a heatwave, you could be affected in the following ways: 

  • Illness as a result of the heat (dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke)
  • Shops may close
  • Power may go out (blackouts)
  • Public transport may not work
  • Hospitals and social services may become overwhelmed
  • Ambulance waiting times could be longer
  • Fires could break out
  • Some Council services may change (such as rubbish collection times and opening hours)
  • People may be more aggressive.

Who is vulnerable in a heatwave?

Everyone is at risk of harm during a heatwave.

Most people have the knowledge, ability and capacity to look after themselves in the heat.

However, some people may be more vulnerable and less able to deal with heat.

The following people are more likely to be vulnerable during a heatwave: 

  • People over 65 years of age
  • People who are overweight or obese
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women
  • Babies, infants and children
  • People who are chronically ill
  • People with limited or poor mobility
  • People taking certain medications
  • People from different cultural backgrounds and people who don’t understand English
  • People experiencing homelessness
  • Outdoor workers and event goers
  • Anyone else who cannot find relief from the heat for at least two hours a day.  

What can you do?

Before a heatwave:

  • Plan for hot weather, including assessing whether your home is prepared to cope with hot weather
  • Look at things you can do to make your home cooler, such as planting trees or installing awnings, shade cloth or external blinds on the sides of the house that face the sun
  • Think about what you would do if a heatwave caused the electricity to go out, public transport to be disrupted or schools and workplaces to close
  • Check your fans and have your air-conditioner serviced, if necessary
  • Think about how you can help people you know who may need assistance in a heatwave.

During a heatwave:

Cool down your home 

  • Close windows during the day if they are exposed to the sun and open windows at night when the temperature is cooler
  • Turn off lights and electrical equipment if they are non-essential
  • Sleep in the coolest room of the home.

Stay out of the heat 

  • Keep out of the sun during the hottest part of the day
  • Avoid intense physical exercise
  • Wear light, loose fitting clothes
  • Find an air conditioned place to spend the day (i.e. library, pool)
  • Avoid outdoor travel and activities.

Keep cool and hydrated

  • Drink plenty of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol as they dehydrate
  • Take a cool (not ice cold) shower
  • Spray water on your skin or clothes
  • Dip a cloth in cold water and wipe your face, neck and arms
  • Eat cold foods like salads, fruit and cold soups. 

Assist others

  • Never leave children or pets in cars
  • Contact sick family and neighbours to check they are ok
  • Recognise the signs of heat related illnesses in others and get help
  • Listen to news reports that provide information during a heatwave.

Get help

  • For 24-hour health advice contact:
    Nurse-On-Call: 1300 60 60 24.
  • For life-threatening emergencies:
    Call: 000. 

For more information about heatwaves and heath health, visit the Department of Health website

A poster with tips on how to beat the heat can also be downloaded:

pdf format Beat the Heat poster (278.44kB)

Translated versions:

pdf format Beat the Heat poster - Chinese (400.53kB)

pdf format Beat the Heat poster - Greek (204.97kB)

pdf format Beat the Heat poster - Italian (201.86kB)

pdf format Beat the Heat poster - Vietnamese (209.85kB)

Further information
Yarra City Council
9205 5555



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