Tweed Valley heatwave – how to avoid heat-related illnesses

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AS TEMPERATURES skyrocket to 38 degrees across the Tweed Valley this weekend, NSW Ambulance paramedics have given their advice on avoiding heat-related illness.

The Tweed will experience a severe heatwave, but not an extreme heatwave as predicted in other parts NSW including the Central Coast.

Murwillumbah is expected to peak at 36°C on Saturday, February 11 and 38°C on Sunday, February 12. Temperatures will be slightly cooler on the Tweed Coast with a high of 29°C on Saturday and 30°C on Sunday respectively.

Paramedics have responded to cases include bush walkers who had run out of water, people playing sport in the hottest part of the day and those who had spent all day working in the sun.

NSW Ambulance Director Education Alan Morrison said the above examples show both the symptoms suffered, and activities to avoid. The range in ages – from children to people aged in their ’90s – demonstrates no-one is immune to the effects of the heat.

“Dehydration, sunburn and heat exposure can lead to heat stroke and other life threatening situations,” Chief Superintendent Morrison said.

“People working in excessively hot environments, such as in roof cavities, can suffer a rapid and extreme escalation of body temperature which can lead to instant death.

“Dehydration in the frail can lead to confusion and a fall that could easily break a hip which could lead to a loss of independent living, or worse.”

Chief Superintendent Morrison advised particular caution for those intending to spend long periods outdoors.

“People have a habit of under-estimating the heat and over-estimating their ability. Ideally, they should be planning ahead and staying out of the sun during the hottest part of the day,” he said.

“If this cannot be avoided, measures such as regularly drinking small amounts of water and indeed ensuring you have enough water to last the day, can mean the difference between remaining healthy and ending up in hospital.

“This is particularly the case for those most at risk, including the young, elderly and chronically ill. If you are in a high risk group, the next few days are not the days to be doing gardening or any strenuous work either outside, or even inside.”

Remember:

  • Stay out of the direct sun – this is particularly important for the elderly and very young;
  • Drink plenty of water and, if outdoors, make sure you take a water bottle with you;
  • cover up with loose-fitting clothing that protects you from the sun; also a hat and sunscreen;
  • Never leave children or pets shut in your car. Heat generated in a closed car can cause serious illness or even death;
  • Drinking alcohol causes dehydration. Consumption should be minimised during extreme heat;
  • Energy drinks and alcohol also cause dehydration. Drinking tea and coffee is not a replacement for water;
  • Take a few moments to check on the well-being of your elderly family and friends; and
  • If you don’t have an air-conditioner, try to spend time in an air-conditioned place like a shopping centre, library or cinema.

Be alert to the symptoms of heat exhaustion. These include:

  • Nausea and vomiting, fainting and dizziness, loss of appetite, weakness, and/or headache.

If any of these symptoms occur, lay the person down, apply cool wet towels around the neck and under the arms and have them drink cool fluids.

If the person does not respond to treatment or they have severe symptoms like confusion or collapse, call Triple Zero (000) immediately and ask for Ambulance.

More information about heat-health, including downloadable advice in several languages, can be found on the NSW Health website ‘Beat the Heat’:

www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/beattheheat

Bureau of Meteorology heatwave forecasts are available at:

http://www.bom.gov.au/australia/heatwave/