Heatwave puts vulnerable at risk

THE BUREAU of Meteorology is predicting extreme heatwave conditions in some over the coming days.

With temperatures expected to reach into the high 30s and early 40s, the Northern NSW Local Health District is urging people to take the risk of heat-related illness seriously.

Paul Corben, Director, Public Health for the district said while heat-related illness may affect anyone, certain groups are particularly vulnerable.

These include the over 75s, infants and children, people with a chronic medical condition and people who live alone.

"We are accustomed to hot weather and generally consider ourselves resilient to such conditions. However, every year hot weather and heat waves cause illness, hospitalisation and sometimes even death, he said.

"During a heat wave, it is very important to stay in regular contact with your elderly friends, neighbours and relatives, and to look out for other vulnerable members of your community.

"Heat puts a lot of strain on the body and can cause dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. It can also make underlying health conditions worse. Being prepared and taking some simple precautions can reduce the risk of heat-related illness."

These simple precautions will help people minimise their risk of heat-related illness:

Drink plenty of water, and remember to carry some with you when you're out and about.

Avoid alcoholic, hot or sugary drinks.

Plan your day around the heat. Stay indoors between 11am and 5pm and minimise physical activity.

Keep the sun out of your house by shading windows with an awning, shade-cloth or plants. Shutting curtains will also help.

Keep windows closed during the day. Open them when it cools down at night or the early morning.

If you have an air-conditioner, make sure it's working.

If you don't have an air-conditioner, try to spend some time in an air-conditioned place like a shopping centre, library or cinema.

Wear light, loose fitting clothing made from natural fibres like cotton.

If outdoors, ensure you are protected from the sun by wearing a hat and sunscreen.

"Signs of heat-related illness include confusion, dizziness, fainting, nausea, vomiting, weakness, headaches and loss of sweating," Paul Corben said.

"People showing any of these signs should seek urgent medical attention through their General Practitioner or local Emergency Department."

More information about heat-health, including downloadable advice in several languages, can be found on the NSW Health website: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/campaigns/beat_the_heat

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