Keep cool and hydrated to beat the heat

A boy drinks from a fountain. Source: Christchurch City Council.Cantabrians are being urged to keep cool and hydrated during what looks set to be the region’s first stretch of scorching temperatures as we move into hottest part of summer.

Weather forecasters are predicting a run of at least five consecutive hot days, with temperatures between the high twenties to early thirties beginning tomorrow (Saturday 25th January) with a forecast high of 31 in Christchurch.

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Ramon Pink says these higher temperatures can be harmful to our health and we must take care not to overheat, a condition which can prove fatal.

“It’s especially important to stay out of the sun where possible, avoid extreme physical exertion and ensure pets and people are not left alone in stationary cars.

“We are all vulnerable to hot temperatures, but some people are particularly at risk. This includes the elderly, infants and children, women who are pregnant, people suffering from chronic, acute and severe illness,” says Dr Pink.

However, there are some simple steps that we can all take to reduce the risk to our health when the temperatures are high. They include:

  • Avoiding going outside during the hottest time of the day;
  • Drinking plenty of water and avoiding alcohol and caffeine; and
  • Wearing lightweight, loose-fitting, light coloured cotton clothes.

Dr Pink says people whose work involves strenuous physical activity outdoors should be particularly vigilant to avoid overheating in hot weather.

“It’s important people exposed to hot weather for long periods of time carry water with them and sip at least half a litre an hour, allow for more breaks in the shade, reapply sunscreen every two hours and schedule the hardest work in the coolest part of the day.

“Be SunSmart (Slip, Slop, Slap and Wrap) if you have to go outside. Keep your house cool by closing curtains on windows getting direct sun, opening windows to get a breeze if it’s cooler out than in, and consider using the cool cycle on heat pumps,” says Dr Pink.

If it’s not possible to keep your home cool, then try to spend a few hours of the day in a cool place – such as an air-conditioned public building, Marae or church as these tend to be cool in summer.

People should keep medicines below 25°C degrees or in the fridge – read the storage instructions on the packaging.

Stay cool and well this summer: Drink plenty of water, stay in cool spaces and out of the sun and wear loose and light cotton clothing.

What to do if you or someone else feels unwell or you are concerned

You may be dehydrated if you feel dizzy, weak or have an intense thirst or headache. Drink some water and rest in a cool place.

If you think you or someone else might be suffering from heat stress or strain, you could:

  • Increase fluids – consider electrolytes;
  • Take a break in a cool spot;
  • Use a cold compress;
  • Remove excessive clothing;
  • Don’t leave the person alone;
  • Run cold water over wrists to cool down blood stream; or
  • Seek immediate medical attention.

Seek medical advice if symptoms persist or you’re concerned about your or someone else’s health. You can call your general practice team 24/7 for care around the clock – after hours a nurse can provide free health advice, and tell you what to do and where to go if you need to be seen urgently.

Call 111 in a life-threatening emergency.

Thirsty? You're already dehydrated infographic. To prevent dehydration: drink small amounts often, especially in hot environments; Try to schedule strenuous work to cooler times of day; and avoid energy drinks as they can increase dehydration. Also includes urine colour indicator - white to pale straw yellow hydrated - dehydrated if darker.

Look out for the symptoms of heat distress

Look after each other and keep an eye out for your mates who may not be aware that they are getting overheated. Symptoms of heat-related illness can include:

  • Confusion;
  • A throbbing headache;
  • Dizziness;
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea;
  • Slow responses or fatigue;
  • Not sweating despite the heat;
  • Muscle cramps or weakness; and
  • Loss of consciousness.

Heat in the workplace

Working in hot temperatures can make us irritable and distracted, but it can also lead to serious health conditions like heat exhaustion or heat stroke in extreme cases.

Tell your manager if you think that you or someone else is struggling with the heat, or if you have concerns that your work environment is too hot.

Source: Canterbury DHB information (December 2019) and media release (24th January 2020).

Published on Friday, January 24th, 2020, under News
Page last updated: 24/01/2020

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