With temperatures now expected to be in the high 30’s and to climb daily now into the mid to high 40’s up to and including Christmas Day, Doctors are warning us all to watch for heat stress.
Heat-related conditions kill around 500 Australians each year – making heatwaves far deadlier than bushfires, floods and cyclones.
AMA Queensland President Dr Bill Boyd says Christmas festivities increased several risk factors for heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
“At Christmas families often spend a lot of time together outdoors, exposing yourself to the sun will cause your body to heat up and that’s when problems can occur, especially for older people who find it harder to lower their temperature.”
A key is to watch the amount of alcohol we consume.
Dr Boyd also says some older people tend to have lost their internal thermometer and can fall into habits that in these conditions can prove deadly.
“They’ll close up their windows because they are concerned about their home’s security, but this will make their environment even hotter.”
“Babies, pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers are also vulnerable – but the precautions needed are all obvious, simple and effective.”
Anyone planning to spend time outdoors at Christmas should drink lots of water, stay in the shade, wear loose-fitting clothes and a hat.
“Staying in a cool, air-conditioned environment is the best preventative measure.”
Dr Boyd also warned amateur athletes who plan on running during the holidays to stay properly hydrated or risk suffering heat exhaustion.
Heat exhaustion occurs when excessive sweating reduces blood volume and may cause paleness, an increased heart rate, muscle cramps, nausea, headache, vomiting and dizziness.
Heatstroke occurs when the body’s core temperature rises above 40.5°C and organs start to fail, leading to delirium, possible seizures and loss of consciousness. Sufferers will need urgent medical attention.
“The best remedy is to keep yourself cool and keep a careful eye on vulnerable people, such as elderly and isolated neighbours.
“If you begin to experience the symptoms of heat exhaustion, lie down somewhere cool, drink chilled water and contact a GP. In an emergency, always call triple-0.”