Australia has been breaking summer heat records across the country since our hottest year ever recorded in 2013, and 2015 was in fact the world’s hottest year on record (CSIRO). But experts from the UK to NASA are already predicting an even hotter 2016, following the UK’s hottest ever spring and summer this year.
As a direct consequence of the mercury rising, we’re seeing more wild weather in all parts of Australia.
Chief Meteorologist for Sky News Weather, Tom Saunders, told Perth Now there is a high probability that every capital of Australia will face a rise above average summer temperatures moving into 2017.
— Ed Hawkins (@ed_hawkins) May 9, 2016
Who has the highest risk of heatstroke in the summer heat?
Going back to basics, we need to beat the heat by safeguarding ourselves and others against increased risk of heat stress and fatality. Several groups of people are more at risk of heatstroke than the general population (VicHealth):
- People over 65 years old, especially if living alone
- Babies and young children
- Pregnant and nursing mothers
- People with a medical condition, especially heart disease, high blood pressure, or lung disease
- People taking medications for mental illness
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) urges people to look out for their elderly relatives, friends, and neighbours in the hot weather.
Former AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said Australia’s notoriously hot summers can be a dangerous time for the elderly, particularly for those who live alone, have chronic medical problems, or limited mobility.
“Many elderly have problems coping with hot weather,” Dr Gannon said. “They can all too easily suffer life-threatening heatstroke if others are not around to spot the warning signs and take action.”
Babies and young children, as well as anyone who is ill, can also suffer in the heat.
How to beat the heat
The Federal Government’s State of Australian Cities 2014-2015 report found that when measured by fatalities, heat waves are the most dangerous natural disaster for Australian cities. With heat wave-related deaths predicted to increase over the next few decades, some easy preventative action could reduce your chances of becoming a statistic.
Some tips for how to prevent heatstroke or just how to beat the heat include:
- Drink water. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, health organisations advise that you should drink 2 to 3 litres of water each day during the heat. Try to avoid alcoholic and caffeinated drinks, as they just dehydrate you more.
- Eat cold foods. Cooking and eating hot meals can increase our body heat, so stick to cold meats, salads, and fruit. Canstar staff have listed their top 10 favourite meals that are cheap and easy to make, and healthy to boot – and most of them can be eaten chilled.
- Dress light. Light-coloured clothing helps to reflect heat, so light, breathable fabrics will help you to feel more comfortable. Loose-fitting clothing is also a must, since it allows the breeze to help your body “breathe”. Cotton and linen are more breathable fabrics than most polyester or synthetic fabrics.
- Limit your time in the sun. If you are going to be out in the sun then ensure that you “slip, slop, slap”. The Cancer Council has also in recent years added “seek” (shade) and “slide” (on a pair on sunglasses) to the mantra. If you don’t have a sunscreen you like, why not try one of the high-rated sunscreens researched and rated by Canstar Blue? Every year they ask Australia which sunscreen works best and feels best on, so that you can choose a winner.
- Get some air. Lack of fresh, flowing air is one of the main causes of heatstroke. Think back to those summer days before you bought a car with air-con, when you would sit in a pool of sweat on your way to and from the beach on the weekend, and you’ll know just what we mean.
- Keep your house cool. If you don’t have air-conditioning, you can still keep your house cool. Keep the rooms shaded and the air circulating as much as possible. You may need to plan some visits to your local library, shopping centre, art gallery, or even just the supermarket during the heat of the day.
- Find a spot in the back. Sporting events, concerts, and parties are all common places where too many bodies crowded together can raise the temperature to heat stress levels. Stick up the back where it is less crowded, and avoid being stuck in a mosh pit without an exit when you need to get some fresh air.
- Watch your meds. It’s especially important to “Be Medicinewise” during the summer heat, since some medications can affect your body’s ability to keep itself hydrated and regulate your core body temperature. Common examples are some medications used for treating mental illnesses. Needless to say, illicit drugs such as ecstasy and speed also raise your core body temperature, putting you at risk of heatstroke.
- Never leave anyone in the car. Never leave yourself, your kids, or your pets in a hot car, even if it is parked in the shade. According to the RSPCA, the temperature inside a car can reach 50?C in just 5 minutes on a relatively mild summer’s day.
Also ensure that you check on your elderly relatives or neighbours regularly, to ensure that they are looking after themselves – and don’t forget about your pets as well!
Symptoms of heatstroke to look out for
When someone has heatstroke, it often feels worse than it looks, but there are signs and symptoms you can watch out for in those around you:
- Skin is hot to the touch
- Skin may be dry, all sweated out
- Skin may turn red
- Dry, swollen tongue – listen out for slurred speech
- Rapid pulse
- Throbbing headache
See someone experiencing symptoms of heatstroke now? Call 000 immediately and get them some hydration, fresh air, and a safe place to lie down.
Will health insurance cover heatstroke?
If you are affected by heatstroke, and you have Hospital Cover, you are covered to be treated for this condition, as a private patient in either a public hospital or a private hospital. Depending on your policy and coverage level, Hospital Cover can cover most or all of the cost of doctor’s fees, staying in a hospital ward or private room, medications that may be required, and more.
Will life insurance cover death by heatstroke?
Death cover or term life insurance should cover death by heatstroke.
Will pet insurance cover heatstroke?
If your pet is affected by heatstroke, and you have an Accident & Illness or Comprehensive policy, you may be covered for part of the cost of veterinary treatment for this condition. Ask your insurance provider for details. Keep in mind that pets will show different symptoms of heatstroke to humans’ symptoms – ask your vet for details. Follow these tips for how to prevent heatstroke for your pets in the summer heat.