During a heatwave

It is important to know how to prepare for extreme heat and how to take care of yourself and your surroundings during a heatwave.

Staying healthy and keeping cool
  • Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Fluids include water, diluted juice (mixed with water) and low sugar sports drinks.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks (including tea, coffee and energy drinks) as these can increase dehydration.
  • Stay indoors with your air-conditioner or fan on (ensure adequate ventilation if using a fan). If you do not have air-conditioning or a fan, close windows and doors shutting off rooms you do not need access to block out the heat.
  • Limit time outdoors. If you need to go outside, try to do so in the early morning or late evening.If you do go outside make sure to put on a hat and sunglasses, apply sunscreen and try to stay in the shade.
  • Take care when you buy, store and handle food in hot weather to reduce the risk of food poisoning.
  • Wear lightweight, light-coloured and loose-fitting clothing. Use natural fibre fabrics; cotton, linen and silk work best in absorbing sweat and allow the skin to breath.
  • When at home try to wear as little clothing as possible.
  • When outdoors, wear lightweight, light-coloured and loose-fitting clothing that covers as much skin as possible. This includes long sleeves, pants and skirts that will provide protection from the sun. Wear a well-vented, wide-brimmed hat (at least 7.5 cm width) to protect your face, head, neck and ears. Sunglasses should be worn. If you wear heavy clothes for protective reasons during hot weather (e.g. for some sports, motorcycling for work), remove them as soon as possible when they are no longer needed as retaining heat and poorly absorbed sweat increases your body temperature.
  • Sleep with just a sheet over you in the coolest part of the house. Remove winter bedding and replace it with lightweight, cotton bedding.
  • If your pet sleeps with you and ‘warms up’ the bed, it may be time to find them a different place to sleep!
  • If you decide to sleep outdoors because you cannot cool your house down, consider the need to protect yourself against mosquitoes and other insects.

Keeping your home cool

  • If possible, try to avoid warming up your home by using an oven or stove when cooking. Instead, you can cook outside using a barbeque during the cooler time of day (the early morning or late evening).
  • Think about installing insulation and roof cavity cooling if you do not have it already. Insulation keeps your house cool in summer and warm in winter.
  • If you are building or renovating, consider how you can make your house more heat tolerant.
  • Keep curtains, blinds and windows closed during the day.
  • Use fans in an adequately ventilated area. Make sure the room you are in has an open door or window so fresh air can flow through the room.
Managing electrical interruptions

Interruption to power in your area may pose a risk to your health and safety, particularly in a heatwave. Here are some simple measures that can be taken to minimise the effects. 

What to do during a short-term power outage:

  • Keep curtains and blinds closed to keep your home cool.
  • Pull down and close the outdoor shading of your home if applicable.
  • Limit the number of times you open the refrigerator and freezer.
  • Limit use of your oven and stove, if possible.
  • If there is a cool breeze at night, open windows, doors and outdoor shading to help cool the house down.
  • Consider using a battery-operated personal fan.
  • If your garage has an electrically operated door, make sure you are able to remove your car.
  • Check that electrical appliances such as stoves and heaters are switched off, as there is a risk of fire when electricity supply is restored if these appliances are left unattended.
  • Keep pets inside or in a cool place with enough water.
  • Take extra care when driving at night as street and traffic lights may not be operating.
  • In buildings with lifts take notice of the advice provided in case of power failure. If you get stuck, follow the procedure for contacting authorities outlined on the lift controls.
  • Make sure all taps are turned off if you use an electrical pressure pump. This will prevent flooding if supply is restored when you are not home.
  • After power comes back on following a prolonged outage, be careful eating food products usually stored in the fridge or freezer that may have been damaged by loss of cold storage. Read our food safety tips.

What to do during a longer-term power outage:

  • Ensure your car is topped up with fuel in case Fuel Bowsers are not operable.
  • Ensure you have sufficient cash on hand in case ATM and credit facilities are not available.
  • If you have all-electric cooking facilities, consider purchasing a small gas-powered camping stove to heat food and water.
  • If your home has an electric hot water system and you keep using it, the water will go cold. Be mindful when using water if you anticipate a long wait before power is restored.
  • If the lack of electricity supply continues to affect your home, consider moving to friends, relatives or community facilities where these services are unaffected.
Taking care of your pets

Animals can also be affected by hot weather and suffer from heat-related illnesses.

To help your pet keep cool on hot days and during extreme heat:

  • Bring your pets inside or make sure they have plenty of shelter/shade if outside.
  • Make sure pets have plenty of clean fresh water to drink and that it is placed in the shade.
  • Never leave pets in a closed shed, garage or car.
  • Walk your dog during the cooler parts of the day (early in the morning or later in the afternoon).
  • Do not walk your pet on hot pavement, roads or sand as paws are sensitive and can burn easily.
  • Do not leave your pet’s food outside in the heat. If they do not eat it straight away, cover the food and put it in the fridge for later.
  • If your pet is showing signs of heat stress like drooling, panting or sweating - move them to a cooler place and try to get them to drink water. Other ways to cool your pet down include standing your pet in water up to its belly.
  • Seek urgent medical attention for your pet from a vet if symptoms do not ease.
More tips to stay cool
  • Make ice cubes from water or cordial and either use them to keep fluids cold or suck them to lower your body temperature.
  • Take a cool shower or bath. Alternatively, you can put your feet in a bowl of cool water.
  • Spray water or use a wet cloth on your face and body to cool down your body temperature
  • Flipping your pillow over to the other side can help if you wake up hot.
  • Have a cool or lukewarm shower or bath. This cools the body directly and can help reduce the temperature of your skin.
  • Wet your face and arms with a face-washer or towel, or use a water filled spray bottle, then stand in front of a fan.
  • Soak your feet in cold water for 10 minutes before going to bed, as heat is lost more quickly through your extremities (feet and head). Wetting your hair is another alternative.
Things to avoid
  • Avoid exercising outdoors or close to bedtime as this causes your temperature to rise. Instead, try to exercise indoors during the cooler parts of the day.
  • Avoid hot, heavy or spicy food and meals as this increases your body temperature.
  • Avoid chocolate or caffeinated drinks (tea, coffee, and energy drinks) in the late afternoon or evening, as these can keep you awake. Alcohol and caffeinated drinks increase dehydration and should be avoided.
  • Do not sleep in your car with the air-conditioner running when the car is not moving, as there may be a build-up of carbon dioxide which can be very dangerous.
  • Avoid dark coloured heavy restrictive fabrics and clothing.
  • Avoid peaked caps, instead opt for a wide-brimmed hat that protects your face and neck.
Last reviewed: 18-11-2022

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional advice. Information about a service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace professional advice. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified professional for answers to their questions.