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Emergency warning: Be prepared to beat the heat

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Ambulance Victoria is urging the community to take precautions against dehydration and other heat related conditions as temperatures are set to soar today.

Ambulance Victoria’s Director of Emergency Management, Justin Dunlop said while it’s been a reasonably cool start to summer, Wednesday and Friday will be very hot and may catch many off guard.

“We are asking the community to be mindful of the impact heat has on them but also their neighbours, with infants, the elderly, expecting and breastfeeding mothers and people with some pre-existing medical conditions, most vulnerable in this weather,” Mr Dunlop said.

“With dry, windy and close to 40 degree days predicted, we want everyone to be alert to the symptoms of heat-related illnesses which include heat rash, muscle cramps, heavy sweating, paleness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and fainting,” he said.

Mr Dunlop said even fit people can be knocked around in the heat and encouraged everyone to follow some simple but effective ways to stay cool including:

• Drinking plenty of fluids, preferably cool water, regularly throughout the day – don’t wait until you’re thirsty. If plain water bores you, add some slices of lemon, cucumber or mint.

• If you drink alcohol, drink responsibly. Alcohol causes faster dehydration and compounds other problems.

• Limiting strenuous outdoor activity and stay indoors when possible, preferably in a building with air-conditioning or good air flow taking time to adjust to the temperature .

• Taking cool showers, soaking feet in water or wearing a wet bandana or washer around your neck.

• Reduce the risk of food poisoning from food left outside too long. Warmer temperatures allow more rapid bacterial growth in foods if they are left out of the fridge.

• Checking the colour of your urine to ensure you are well-hydrated – it should be clear to light straw-coloured, not dark or gold.

“Of course, if you can’t avoid the sun, always wear sunscreen. If you’re outdoors for any length of time, find some shade and cool off periodically and seek shade to avoid sunburn and heatstroke,” Mr Dunlop said.

“Heatstroke is a serious illness and requires immediate medical attention. If you experience symptoms including an extremely high body temperature, flushed dry skin, a rapid pulse, headache or disorientation, we ask you to call 000.

“This is why it’s so important to check on elderly neighbours as they are more prone to heatstroke and are often the last people to call us when they’re in trouble. Air-conditioning and fans can make a real difference.”

Mr Dunlop said he also wants to remind the community to keep a close eye on children, particularly around water and never leave kids in cars – the temperature can double in minutes.

“The worst calls we can get as paramedics are to backyard drownings so please wear a life jacket when near or in water, and never swim alone. Water makes anything slippery and carelessness around pools and other wet surfaces can lead to slips, falls or more serious consequences,” he said.

“This heatwave is likely to continue on and off over the coming weeks and we have made sure we have adequate clinical and support staff available to provide the appropriate level of care and response.

“Planning allows us to make sure people are informed on how to minimise the impact of the heat and to ensure the most vulnerable in our community receive care.”

Mr Dunlop also reminded people that Ambulances are for emergencies.

“While no one will ever be turned away if they call for assistance, people ringing 000 for minor ailments will be redirected to other services, so please use 000 wisely,” he said.

“If your medical problem can be dealt with by an alternative source including GPs, pharmacies and dentists, our advice is to see them.

“Our workforce do a superb job under pressure and our community can be very proud of the way they – and wider hospital and health system staff – work together to deliver such a consistently high standard of care during such a busy period.

“I strongly encourage people to take proper care of themselves, their loved ones and others during both this week and across the festive season as no one wants to spend their school holidays in the back of an ambulance.”

For more information on staying healthy during the heat please visit www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/heat.

Emergency: People who are experiencing heart or breathing problems or who are in need of urgent medical attention should call triple zero (000).

Non-urgent: If it is not life-threatening, contact your GP. Access the National Health Service Directory at www.nhsd.com.au to find one in your area.

Health advice: Call 1300 60 60 24 for medical advice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with Registered Nurses available to give qualified advice.

Pharmacist: See your pharmacist before Christmas for ongoing prescription medicines and first aid.

Dental: Most public and private clinics will run throughout the holiday season with the exception of Christmas, Boxing and New Year’s Day.

Mental Health Support: Lifeline on 13 11 14 for 24/7 crisis support, or beyoundblue.org.au or 1300 224 636 for 24/7 mental health advice and information.