HEALTH

How To Survive The Christmas Heatwave

It's going to be hot, hot, hot.

23/12/2016 8:28 AM AEDT | Updated 24/12/2016 8:05 AM AEDT
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Keep your cool this Christmas.

The forecasts are in: Christmas day is going to be hot. The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting heatwave conditions to sweep across the southern states from today until at least December 25. And if you're in Adelaide, brace yourself for a maximum of 40 degrees on Christmas Day.

Extreme heat kills more Australians each year than any other disaster, according to the Australian Medical Association (AMA). A study published by the Torrens Resilience Institute at Flinders University also found that people with cardiovascular, renal, respiratory or mental health problems are more likely to be affected by days of extreme heat.

Stay safe over the silly season with these simple tips to cope with hot weather.

Stay hydrated

Drinking plenty of water is the most obvious and most important way to avoid getting sick during extreme heat. Be aware of the signs of dehydration: a swollen tongue, thirstiness, dry mouth, weakness or dizziness, and palpitations, feeling confused or sluggish, or fainting.

The Australian Medical Association recommends drinking at least two to three litres of water per day to stay hydrated.

And if you're having a few drinks, remember that the dehydrating effects of alcohol will be made worse during extremely hot days.

Air conditioning vs fans

Staying inside a home with air conditioning is the ultimate way to beat the heat. Set the thermostat at a comfortable temperature between 22 and 25 degrees Celsius.

But if you don't have air conditioning, an electric fan will go a long way to help regulate your body temperature, according to a recent study by Dr Ollie Jay, a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Sydney.

"Heatwaves claim lives every year so it's essential that people who can't afford air-conditioning know that a fan is a good alternative and could even save lives," he said in a press statement.

And if it's really too hot with just a fan, find some air con at your local library, movie theatre or shopping centre.

Caring for pets

"Companion animals of all kinds are susceptible to heat stress and heat stroke," says Dr Anne Fawcett from the University of Sydney's Faculty of Veterinary Science.

"The mortality rate of dogs admitted to veterinary hospital is between 50 to 65 percent so it is crucial owners take every precaution to make sure their animal companions are safe and healthy."

Make sure there is plenty of shade for them outside or keep them inside with you to be on the safe side. Never leave pets locked in the car on a hot day because the temperature can rise very quickly and cause heat stroke.

Give your pets a bowl of iced water to keep cool and hydrated. Keeping your dog well-groomed in summer will help them regulate their body temperature as well.

Prepare your home

Keep your blinds closed on days of extreme heat. Installing awnings over windows will help to keep your home even cooler. If you live in the bush, go over your bush fire plan.

Dress lightly

Choose both light coloured clothing which reflects the sun and lightweight, breathable fabrics. Protective hats, sunglasses and clothing are a must outside.

Plan your day

"Stay indoors when possible, and avoid going outside at the hottest times of day," suggests AMA Vice President, Dr Tony Bartone.

"Leave the backyard cricket till later in the day perhaps!"

Keep an eye on neighbours

There's no need to go all Rear Window on your neighbours all summer but checking in with elderly people in your street could be a lifesaving call. Older people are more affected by extreme heat and may not be able to afford air conditioning.

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