Surviving Summer

Spring and summer weather conditions across much of eastern Australia left many communities experiencing lower than average rainfall, higher than average temperatures and increased particle pollution. With no predictions for a change in conditions before autumn 2020, HealthWISE would like to share advice with our communities to survive the summer ahead.
HealthWISE Director Dr. Stephen Howle advises people with pre-existing medical conditions, to talk to their appropriate health professional as to the sort of things they should or should not do at times of severe high temperatures. Young children especially pre-schoolers are at high risk of heat related problems. Young children should drink water continuously during hot weather to avoid dehydration. Water is a better alternative to fruit juice as a lot of juices are high in sugar and will dehydrate the body.
Elderly members of the community should also ensure they are drinking an adequate amount of water. If you are able to take the time to check on elderly relatives and neighbours, make sure they have got adequate cooling, either naturally with shade or with the aid of fans and air conditioning.

If there is concern for the cost of using air-conditioning, look at alternatives such as putting a comfortable chair in the bathroom (usually the coolest room in the house). Also complete outdoor activities during the early morning, before the heat of the day and early evening.
Safe food storage is an important consideration for all community members. Make sure that items are kept in the fridge. Food borne illnesses such as gastroenteritis are more common in hot times. Be aware that food items that are not normally kept in the fridge, now may need to go into the fridge. Fresh fruit is a better alternative to hot snacks during the summer months.

We are entering the last few days of school lunchboxes for 2019, but continue to ensure that whatever is packed for the day, will survive exposure to heat while stored on school verandahs and in school corridors.
During a drier, windier summer particle pollution is going to be more of a problem, not just for urban pollution, but for all Australian residents. Dr Howle noted that ‘there is scientific proof that increased particle pollution increases the risk of premature death’. Particle pollution levels rise with wind, dust and bushfires. All members of the community should consider current weather conditions prior to exercising:
  • If particle pollution is visible, you either have to not exercise or exercise indoors or in a swimming pool
  • Outdoor exercise needs to occur when there is minimal wind
  • People with lung disease and people with asthma of all ages, are at increased risk not just with dust and wind but also with higher temperatures.
The community should also be aware that the incidence of heart attack increases with hotter weather. Also physical injuries increase and depression is more common with persistent hot weather, as well as a lack of rain.

Skin damage from hot weather is another problem – Use appropriate clothing (broad brim hats not baseball hats), using sunscreen, having loose clothing with long sleeves. All those things can reduce your risk of being exposed to excessive sunlight.

HealthWISE operates across northern New South Wales and southern Queensland. Our services include dietetics, Exercise Physiology, Healthy Aging groups and mental health services. Further details are available from this website: https://healthwise.org.au/services/ or by calling 02 6766 1394.
If you would like to check the air quality in your area, or would like more information on air pollution please visit https://www.dpie.nsw.gov.au/air-quality

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