News & Events

Keep cool and hydrated to beat the heat

24 January 2020

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).

Cantabrians’ wellbeing continues to improve

18 December 2019

Canterbury’s latest wellbeing indicators show that most people continue to rate their quality of life highly.

A major update to the Canterbury Wellbeing Index was released today by Canterbury District Health Board. The Index uses data from many different local and national agencies, as well the Canterbury Wellbeing Survey, to bring together information about wellbeing in Christchurch City, Selwyn District and Waimakariri District.

Chair of the greater Christchurch Psychosocial Governance Group Evon Currie, says quality of life ratings have reached the highest level ever since surveying started, with over eight in ten (86 percent) greater Christchurch residents rating their quality of life positively.

“Greater Christchurch is going from strength to strength, with new developments helping contribute to a real sense of vibrancy. This, combined with the fact far fewer of us are still battling insurance and other earthquake related stressors, is contributing to overall improvements in wellbeing,” says Currie.

Quality of life in Christchurch City has risen the most since the first Canterbury wellbeing Survey in 2012 (up 15 percent to 86 percent). Overall there is very little variation across the region, with 89 percent of Selwyn residents, and 87 percent of Waimakariri residents, rating their quality of life positively in 2019.

Currie says loneliness continues to be a significant issue amongst Canterbury youth, with 15 percent of 18 to 24 year olds reporting feeling lonely or isolated always or most of the time in 2019. This figure is significantly higher than 6 percent for the overall adult population. The 65 to 74 year age group has the lowest proportion reporting loneliness – at less than 2 percent. The 18-24 year old age group also has the highest proportion (16 percent) who would find it hard or very hard to talk to someone if they were feeling down.

“It is apparent that we need to explore ways in which we can address loneliness among young people. Are we doing enough for our young people? This is a key question our community, and our policy makers, need to keep asking.

“Someone who is lonely, and who doesn’t feel there is anyone they can talk to, is vulnerable. As a society we all need to step up and ensure we are there for each other and no one falls through the cracks,” says Currie.

The Canterbury Wellbeing Index contains 57 indicators across a diverse range of domains including education, housing, health and employment, and includes a separate section focusing on 19 Māori wellbeing indicators. The interactive Index website enables users to easily extract the information they are interested in.

Source: Canterbury District Health Board media release (18th December 2019).

Care around the clock continues over the summer

Remember that you can still get free health advice whenever you need it wherever your holidays take you around New Zealand.

Father and his 3 young children walking to the sea on a beach.You can call your own general practice team 24/7 for care around the clock – whether you’ve had a donk from your new pétanque set or the Christmas leftovers are turning your tummy.

Be sure to load your usual general practice number into your mobile phone before you head off on holiday. A team of registered nurses are ready to take your call when the doors are closed and the lights are out – any time of day or night, including public holidays.

Watch a video to meet some of the care around the clock nursing team and find out more about the service they provide.

Remember to take enough of your regular medications with you if you are heading away. If you need a repeat prescription – get it sorted before you leave town.

  • Call or text 1737 any time if you’re feeling anxious or just need someone to talk – you can talk a trained counsellor for free.
  • Call 111 in a life-threatening emergency.

Make your usual general practice team your first call for all other health care needs – whether you’re holidaying in Wanaka or Whangamata. They can tell you what to do and where to go if you need to be seen urgently.

Information for visitors to Christchurch

Visitors to Christchurch who need to see a doctor can visit one of the urgent care practices:

  • The 24 Hour Surgery (401 Madras Street – near the corner with Bealey Avenue).
    Phone (+64) 3 365 7777
  • Moorhouse Medical (3 Pilgrim Place)
    Phone (+64) 3 365 7900. Open 8am to 8pm daily.
  • Riccarton Clinic (4 Yaldhurst Road)
    Phone (+64) 343 3661. Open 8am to 8pm daily.

Get trusted health advice over the summer

Other good places for health advice are:

  • HealthInfo Canterbury – a health information website with information specific to Canterbury. It is written and approved by local doctors, practice nurses, hospital clinicians, and other healthcare professionals; or
  • your community pharmacy.

Source: Canterbury DHB media release (16th December 2019).

Cantabrians urged to protect themselves against Legionnaires’ this spring

25 October 2019

People are more inclined to head outside and get stuck into their gardens as the days get longer and warmer. This comes with an increased risk of catching Legionnaires’ disease.

There were 48 hospitalisations from Legionnaires’ in Canterbury last year. 12 cases of the disease have already confirmed in the region since June. So gardeners are being urged to take care with potting mix and compost.

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Alistair Humphrey says Legionnaires’ disease is a form of pneumonia.

“It’s caused by the Legionella bacteria that live in moist organic material. People can catch the disease by inhaling airborne droplets or particles containing the bacteria. Gardeners are at particularly high risk of catching Legionnaires’ disease as the bacteria thrives in bags of potting mix and compost,” says Dr Humphrey.

There is typically a spike in cases in early November in Canterbury. This can be attributed to the increased gardening activity from Labour weekend onwards. Now is the time for people to take the necessary steps to avoid catching the disease.

Cantabrians are being encouraged to protect themselves against Legionnaires' this planting season.

Five simple steps to avoid Legionnaire’s disease from potting mix or compost

It is important that gardeners follow these five simple steps to avoid catching Legionnaires’ disease from potting mix or compost:

  1. Open bags of compost or potting mix carefully – use scissors instead of ripping the bag
  2. Wear a well-fitting disposable face mask and gloves. Remember not to touch your mask while gardening.
  3. Dampen down the potting mix or compost with a sprinkle of water to reduce dust.
  4. Work with potting mix or compost in a well-ventilated area outside.
  5. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling potting mix or compost, or doing any gardening.

“Legionnaires’ is a very serious illness and these simple actions can be lifesaving” says Dr Humphrey.

The illness may be mild but can sometimes be fatal. It is more common in older people, particularly if they smoke, have poor immunity or a chronic illness. However healthy young people have died from legionella pneumonia.

Symptoms of Legionnaire’s disease to look out for

Symptoms of the disease may include:

  • dry coughing
  • high fever
  • chills
  • diarrhoea
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pains
  • headaches
  • excessive sweating
  • nausea
  • vomiting, and
  • abdominal pain.

Anyone who gets these symptoms should see their general practice team immediately, and let them know they have been handling potting mix or compost recently.

Source: Canterbury DHB media release (25th October 2019).

Page last updated: 24/04/2018

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