Did you know that heat kills more Australians than any other natural disaster?
Australian summers are notoriously hot and the summer of 18/19 is expected to be no different.
Extreme heat can lead to a number of heat-related illnesses including heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, sunburn and heat rash. With so many serious potential health issues related to hot weather, we thought it timely to provide some reminders about both working in the heat and providing care to vulnerable persons during a heatwave.
Common symptoms of heat –related illness include, but are not limited to:
• high body temperature
• deterioration in existing medical conditions
• dizziness and fainting
• clammy skin
• nausea and vomiting
It is also important to note that in some cases, a person may not be sweating at all but may still be experiencing the symptoms of a heat-related illness.
Working in the heat
When working during a heat wave, we understand that it is not always possible for our team members to be indoors at all times given the nature of the work we do out in the community. We therefore advise that all our team members follow the below suggestions to help stay cool and healthy during hot spells:
• Ensure you carry a bottle of cool water with you at all times and drink and refill this regularly throughout the day. Don’t wait to drink until you feel thirsty.
• Rest as much as possible between shifts to allow your body to recover.
• If you have to travel between shifts, ensure your car air conditioning is working and park in the shade where possible.
• Encourage clients with air conditioning to turn this on. It is likely to be in the best interests of their health too.
Caring for vulnerable persons
Working with older people and those with disability, HenderCare provides care to some of our community’s most vulnerable people and this vulnerability is often heightened during extreme heat. Please remember the following when working with clients during hot weather.
• Ensure the person has access to cool drinking water and encourage them to regularly consume water while in your presence and throughout the day.
• Watch for signs of heat-related illness and any changes in behaviour, especially excessive drowsiness.
• If the person has air conditioning encourage them to turn it on and where possible ask them to remain in the coolest parts of the residence as much as possible.
• If the person does not have air conditioning, keep curtains and windows closed and ensure that the person has access to a cool flannel.
• Recommend they are dressed in cool, light clothing.
Clients with good mobility and without air conditioning may benefit from spending time in an air-conditioned venue like a local library or shopping centre.
However, this should be reviewed on a case by case basis as travelling in the heat to get to a venue like this can be physically taxing in the heat.
If you have any concerns over clients you are visiting on behalf of HenderCare, please report these to your coordinator immediately.
Should any clients you visit appear to be suffering any heat related illness, call for immediate medical assistance on 000.