Australia often experiences high temperatures throughout the summer months, and it is important to be prepared for heatwaves that may occur.

Heatwaves are not just uncomfortable; they pose serious health risks which can potentially lead to heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions may be more affected by periods of intense heat.

The following tips can help you prepare for extreme heat and can reduce the risk of developing heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

Within the home:

  • Check that cooling systems like air-conditioning units or fans have recently been serviced and are working effectively. Placing a bowl of ice in front of a fan can help create a cool breeze but ensure this isn’t a trip or safety hazard.
  • Identify ways to make your home cooler by installing awnings or external blinds. Plants can also help to provide shade for your home
  • Closing curtains and blinds will help reduce excess heat entering your home, try to ensure these are in pale colours as dark materials may absorb heat and make the room warmer. Black-out curtains or blinds may further help with this.
  • Applying damp cloths to key pressure points like neck and wrists or putting hands/feet in cool water can help to cool the body. Alternatively, take cool (not cold) showers.
  • Cotton bed sheets can be more breathable than other more-synthetic fabrics
  • Try to stay in one or two rooms and focus on keeping these rooms cool rather than trying to cool down the whole house.
  • Avoid cooking as this can add to the heat in the house – instead try cooking at cooler times of the day, or choose meals that don’t the use of the oven or hob. Once the intensity of the sun has reduced, it may be cooler to cook in the backyard rather than in the kitchen.


  • Wear loose-fitting, lightly-coloured clothing, preferably made from breathable fabrics like cotton
  • Use sunscreen and keep skin covered when exposed to direct sunlight

Food and drink:

  • Ensure you have enough food, water, medicines and toiletries in the house to avoid going out in the heat
  • Try to eat smaller, cold meals more regularly, like salad. Food with a high-water content like strawberries, cucumber, celery, and lettuce, will also help to keep you hydrated and cool in summer weather.
  • Ensure that food is properly stored and refrigerated, defrost foods in the fridge instead of on the kitchen bench.
  • Drink water regularly throughout the day to avoid dehydration – aim for around 2-3 litres a day and try to avoid alcoholic or caffeinated beverages or drinks with high levels of sugar
  • Drinking isotonic sports drinks can help replenish any salts, sugars, and fluids that are lost as we sweat – but avoid these if you are on a reduced-salt diet as this can affect medical conditions
  • If you normally have restricted fluid intake, monitor how much you drink during hot weather. Drinking too much water can also be dangerous, so monitor the colour of your urine: the ideal is light yellow!

Medicine and health conditions:

  • Store medicines at a safe temperature
  • Ask your doctor if you have any health conditions that mean you are at greater risk of heat-related illness, and what you need to do about them to keep well in the heat.

Out and About:

Try to avoid going out during heatwaves. If you do need to travel, try to ensure you…

  • Stay indoors in cool or air-conditioned facilities— either at home or at local shopping centres or libraries etc.
  • Seek shade when outside, and avoid going out in the hottest part of the day (usually from 11am – 5pm)
  • Apply sunscreen (and don’t forget to regularly reapply this!) and wear a hat if you have to go outside
  • Take regular breaks indoors or in a shady area to avoid getting heat exhaustion or heatstroke.

And finally…

  • keep in touch with sick or frail friends, neighbours and relatives to ensure that they are coping with the heat wave conditions
  • Stay informed about the weather conditions by listening to news reports about the heat wave.
  • Look out for signs of heatstroke and heat exhaustion. Whilst they may seem similar, heatstroke is potentially far more serious.

Heat exhaustion is caused when the body loses excess water, salt, and sugars through sweating. It can be treated by having plenty to drink, keeping out of the sun, and knowing how to cool down.

Heat stroke occurs when the body’s temperature becomes dangerously high and the body is no longer able to cool itself. Symptoms include confusion, headache, nausea, and muscle cramps.


As the summer continues to bring high temperatures across Australia, it’s important to be prepared. By following these tips, it can help to keep your home cool and protected from the heat. So don’t forget your sunhat, drink plenty of water, and stay cool this summer.