Be safe in extreme heat

  Illustration of five easy ways to be safe in a heatwave



Extreme heat kills more Australians than any natural disaster. It's important to know the effects of extreme heat, who is at risk and how you can prepare yourself and others.

Heat health communications materials 

Access a range of heat health communications materials - posters, postcards, brochures, guidance and videos - for practical information on what to do in extreme heat.

How could I be affected?

  • illness (dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke)
  • shops may close
  • power may go out
  • public transport services may be altered
  • hospitals and social services may become overwhelmed
  • ambulance waiting times could be longer
  • fires could break out
  • some of our services may change (such as rubbish collection times and opening hours)

Who is most vulnerable?

  • older people
  • young children
  • people with a medical condition
  • people from different cultural backgrounds and people who don’t understand English
  • people experiencing homelessness
  • outdoor workers
  • people cannot find relief from the heat for at least 2 hours a day

What to do in extreme heat

Plan ahead

  • Keep up to date with weather forecasts
  • Cancel non-essential outings and plan essential activities for the coolest part of the day.
  • Stock up on food, water and medicines so you don’t have to go out in the heat.
  • Visit your doctor to check if changes are needed to your medicines during extreme heat. 
  • Store medicines safely at the recommended temperature. 
  • Check that your fan or air-conditioner works well. Have your air-conditioner serviced if necessary. 
  • Prepare for power failures – ensure you have a torch, battery-operated radio, fully charged mobile phone or battery back-up, food items that don’t require refrigeration, medications, plenty of drinking water and other essential items. 
  • Look at the things you can do to make your home cooler such as installing window coverings, shade cloths or external blinds on the sides of the house facing the sun.

Drink plenty of water

  • Keep a full drink bottle with you.
  • Take small sips of water frequently.
  • If your doctor normally limits your fluids, check how much you should drink during hot weather.

Stay somewhere cool

  • Spend as much time as possible in cool or air-conditioned buildings (shopping centres, libraries, cinemas or community centres). 
  • Keep yourself cool by using wet towels, putting your feet in cool water and taking cool showers. 
  • Block out the sun at home during the day by closing curtains and blinds. 
  • Open the windows when there is a cool breeze. 
  • Stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day. 
  • If you must go out, wear a hat and sunscreen and take a bottle of water with you.
  • Dress lightly.
  • Wear light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing made from natural fibres like cotton and linen. 
  • Eat smaller meals more often and cold meals such as salads. 
  • Make sure food that needs refrigeration is properly stored. 
  • Avoid intense activity like exercise, renovating and gardening. 
  • Watch or listen to news reports for more information.
  • Don’t forget your pets – a cool bath, wet towel to lie on, a place next to a fan and plenty of fresh water work just as well for animals. 

Never leave anyone in a car

  • Never leave kids, adults or pets in cars – the temperature can double in minutes.

Check in on others

  • Look after those most at risk in the heat – your neighbour living alone, older people, young children, people with a medical condition and your pets.
  • Keep in touch with friends and family who may need help. Call or visit them during extreme heat. 
  • Encourage others to drink plenty of water. 
  • Offer to help family, friends and neighbours who are aged over 65 or have an illness by doing shopping or other errands so they can avoid the heat.
  • Take them somewhere cool for the day or have them stay the night if they are unable to stay cool in their home. 
  • If you observe symptoms of heat-related illness, seek medical help.

Get help

For 24-hour health advice contact:

  • Nurse-On-Call: 1300 60 60 24
  • For life-threatening emergencies call 000

For more information and additional resources, visit the Better Health Channel website.