Hot weather health and safety
When the weather is very hot, your body has to work harder to produce more sweat to keep cool.
In some conditions, sweating isn’t enough and your body temperature can rise rapidly. This is more likely to happen when it is humid or when you are dehydrated and can’t produce enough sweat. When you are dehydrated, you might look pale and experience heat cramps, especially after strenuous activity.
It is important your body temperature stays between 36.1 – 37.8˚C. If your body rises above this, you may develop signs of heat-related illness.
Heat-related illness occurs when the body absorbs too much heat. This may happen slowly over a day or two of very hot weather.
Act quickly to avoid serious—or even fatal—effects of fully developed heatstroke.
Signs of heatstroke
Call 000 and ask for an ambulance.
Signs of heat stress
Take immediate action to cool down including:
Read more about signs and symptoms of heat-related illness.
Tips for beating the heat
- Find ways to make your home or building cooler like light coloured window coverings, awnings and shade cloth.
- Have air conditioners serviced before the beginning of summer.
- Ensure you have enough food, medicine and other supplies to avoid going out or if electricity supply is interrupted.
- If you have a medical condition, ask your doctor for advice on how to manage the heat.
- Make a list of family, friends and neighbours you might want to check in on and ensure you have their current contact details.
Drink water regularly
- Drink 2 to 3 litres of water a day at regular intervals, even if you do not feel thirsty. If you are on a limited fluid intake, check with your doctor.
- Limit intake of alcohol, soft drinks, sports drinks, tea or coffee.
- Eat as you normally would but try to eat cold foods, particularly salads and fruit. Avoid heavy protein foods which raise body heat and increase fluid loss.
Keep out of the heat
- Plan your day to keep activity to a minimum during the hottest part of the day.
- If you can, avoid going out in the hottest part of the day (11am–3pm). Avoid strenuous activities and gardening.
- Do not leave children, adults or animals in parked cars.
- If you do go out, wear lightweight, light-coloured, loose, porous clothes, a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen.
- Regularly rest in the shade and drink plenty of water.
Stay as cool as possible
- Stay inside, in the coolest rooms in your home.
- Block out the sun during the day and keep windows closed while the room is cooler than it is outside.
- Use fans and air-conditioners at home to keep cool, or spend time elsewhere in air-conditioning like a library, community centre, cinema or shopping centre.
- Take frequent cool showers or baths and splash yourself several times a day with cold water.
- Open windows after the Sun has gone down / heat has gone down to allow for air circulation.
- Make sure to stay cool while you sleep. Just because the heat has gone down doesn't mean it isn't still hot.
Keep food safe in hot weather
- Put food back in the fridge after using it.
- Don't eat food that has been left out of the fridge for 2+ hours
- Put leftovers in the fridge after the food has cooled
- Eat leftovers within 2–3 days.
- Read more about food safety.
Understanding your risk
In very hot weather, everyone can be at risk of heat-related illness. If you don't manage heat effectively, your risk increases.
Check in regularly with vulnerable people. These groups are particularly at risk.
- Elderly people may not have air conditioning or be able to afford the cost of running it.
- They may also live with medical illnesses (e.g. Diabetes, Dementia, Renal Disease, Heart Disease) which means they are more likely to get sick from the heat.
Babies and very young children
- Very young children have little bodies that cannot easily cope with changing temperatures.
- The younger the child, the quicker they will start to show signs of dehydration or heat stress.
- Sick children need special attention in hot weather, even for minor illnesses such as a cold or hay fever.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women have an increased metabolism which means they need to eat and drink more to stay healthy.
- When it is very hot, they are at an increased risk of dehydration if they don’t have enough food and water.
People with medical conditions
- People with medical conditions are at an increased risk of dehydration when it is very hot because of their medical treatments.
- Many medical treatments can reduce the amount of fluid (water) in your body.
- People with chronic medical conditions such as dementia, delirium and mental health may need support to make the right decisions to eat and drink enough.
People who take certain medications
- Medications include:
- allergy medicines (antihistamines)
- blood pressure and heart medications (beta-blockers)
- fluid tablets (diuretics)
- anti-depressant or anti-psychotic medications.
People with an alcohol or other drug problem
- People with an alcohol or drug problems can be unaware of what they need, because their senses are affected.
- Some drugs can cause a person’s metabolism and body temperature to rise which means they are at an increased risk of dehydration and heat stress.
People with an intellectual disability or additional needs
- People with an intellectual disability or additional needs often rely on others to help them understand how they feel and what they need.
- When it is very hot, this happens more often, and they need support to eat well and to stay well hydrated.
People who are physically active outdoors
- People who are physically active, such as tradespeople and athletes, are used to pushing their bodies to the limit.
- When it is very hot, people's limits may be reduced and can often be underestimated, so they need to take extra steps to stay well hydrated.
Caring for children in hot weather
Babies and young children are more susceptible to heat-related illness than adults. Their bodies cannot easily adapt to changing temperatures.
The younger the child, the quicker they will start to show signs of dehydration or heat stress. Sick children need special attention in hot weather, even for minor illnesses such as a cold or hay fever.
Stay hydrated and well nourished
- Ensure your child has easy access to plain water and encourage them to drink it, even before they become thirsty.
- Children 5–8 years of age should aim to drink 1 litre of water per day.
- Children 9–12 years of age—1.5 litres per day.
- Teenagers and people 13+—2 litres per day.
- Avoid using ice.
- Avoid drinks that cause dehydration—such as drinks high in sugar, salt and/or caffeine.
- If breastfeeding, feed your baby more often and drink plenty of water yourself.
- Give bottle-fed babies cool, boiled water between feeds.
- Give children small regular meals and minimise hot food.
- 0–6 months: rely on breast milk, so offer breastfeeds more frequently. Water or other drinks are not needed unless recommended by a doctor.
- 6–12 months: need food and fluids in addition to breast milk, so give small amounts of cooled boiled water after or in between breastmilk feeds.
- over 12 months: need solid foods and drinks, continue breastfeeding, or give full cream milk via a cup. Offer cooled boiled water after or in between meals.
Monitor your child’s urine rate
- Babies: monitor the number of wet nappies. If your baby has fewer wet nappies than usual in 24 hours, see a doctor or call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) for advice
- Young children: urine should be a light straw colour. Dark urine may be a sign of dehydration and indicate the need to drink. If you are concerned, see a doctor or call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) for advice.
- Dress children in loose fitting, single layered, cotton clothing.
- Keep children cool by giving them regular lukewarm baths or showers. Do not use ice cold water as a sudden and extreme change of body temperature can cause decreased level of consciousness.
- Avoid taking your child outside between 10am–3pm.
- Use a suitable sunshade on your baby's stroller.
- Ensure children wear broad-brimmed hats and SPF 30+ to avoid sunburn.
- Be aware of any pre-existing medical conditions, which may cause a child to be more heat-sensitive.
- Children may experience nappy rash when it is hot—avoid using talcum powder, keep area clean and dry.
- Never leave your child in a hot car or give them your keys to play with. Not even for a minute.
Looking after your animals
- Animals can also be affected by heat-related illness.
- If you’re in charge of an animal, you have a duty of care to provide it with food, water, and appropriate shelter.
- Never leave animals unattended in a hot car.
- For more tips and advice visit: RSPCA Queensland: Pet tips for Summer
Advice and emergency contacts
- Call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) for advice
- Contact your doctor, hospital or health clinic
- In an emergency, call 000
Related hot weather resources
Sites for schools and workplaces
Duration 2:05 |
Look before you lock
Every year in Queensland, children and pets are left alone.
In hot cars.
As soon as the car door locks, the clock starts ticking.
When a child or pet is left or accidentally locked in a hot car, the situation can turn tragic in a matter of minutes as the temperatures soar to life threatening levels.
The younger the child, the greater the sensitivity to heat stroke and the faster the child will dehydrate a child's body.
Temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult, and these extreme conditions put your child at greater risk of life threatening heat stroke, brain injury, heart and lung failure, dehydration or even death.
Never leave your child or pet alone in a car or give them your keys to play with.
Not even for a minute.
Look before you lock.