Tips on how to avoid heat-related illnesses this summer

Dr Alan Yan is the Deputy Director of the Emergency Department at Redcliffe Hospital.  Last summer, the Emergency Department at Redcliffe Hospital treated sixty people for heat-related illnesses.

Heat-related illnesses include sunburn and dehydration, but also the more serious medical emergency of heat-stroke.

Dr Yan has some tips on how to avoid getting sick from the summer heat and sun.

Tip 1 – Sun protection

It only takes minutes for the summer sun to start causing damage to the skin.

Hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen should be part of whatever you’re doing this summer.

Sunburn can happen even when you’re driving to the beach – so, put the sunscreen on before you leave home, and apply plenty more every few hours.

The shade is the best place to be to enjoy summer – at the beach, pool, or park.  If there’s no shade where you’re going – take your own.

Tip 2 – Dehydration can sneak up on you

Dehydration happens when your body loses too much water, too quickly – and that water isn’t being replaced fast enough.   It can sneak up on you, especially in summer.  You might notice your urine is darker or brighter than normal, or maybe a bit of headache and you’re feeling thirsty.  In the early stages, it’s pretty easy to fix – but if you don’t catch it, it can get much more serious.

It’s especially a problem for older people and children – but fit and active people have to watch out too.

Tip 3 – Water is best

Drink water. Alcohol, tea, coffee, sweet soft drinks and energy drinks might make you feel better – but they all leave you more dehydrated. If you’re drinking them, you need to drink more water with them to make up for it.  Avoid them on hot days, and reach for your water bottle instead.

Tip 4 – Remind children to take drink breaks

Playing at the beach, the pool, or even in the back yard, it’s important that children are reminded to take regular drink breaks.  Shade and sun protection are a must as well.

Tip 5 – Location, location, location

For older people in particular, the best place to be on the hottest of summer days is somewhere cool, where there’s plenty of circulating air.

Spending too long in a hot kitchen on a hot day isn’t a good recipe.

Tip 6 – Plan your summer’s day

If it’s going to be a scorcher, try to plan your day so you’re out of the heat as much as possible, the best time to do hard work or strenuous exercise is going to be the cooler early mornings and evenings.

If you’re concerned that you or someone else is suffering from a heat-related illness, call 13-Health for advice, or triple zero in an emergency.