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Heat-related illnesses

Tasmanians love being outdoors in summer. Whether it be gardening, a family barbeque or a day at the beach, summer is a time to enjoy the great outdoors.

However, spending days in the summer heat has its risks, and heat-related illnesses can affect anybody at any time of the day or night. Some people are more likely to be at risk than others - older people, children and people with an existing medical condition need to take particular care. 

What is a heat-related illness?

Heat-related illnesses, such as heat stress, occur when a person has had too much exposure to extreme heat and the body is no longer able to keep itself cool. 

In severe cases a person can develop heat stroke. Heat stroke is a medical emergency requiring immediate medical attention. It may involve loss of consciousness, seizures, convulsions or an altered mental state. If heat stroke is suspected, call 000 (triple zero). 

What does heat stress look like?

In mild to moderate cases, a heat-related illness might include any of the following:

  • heat rash – a red, raised rash which may be itchy
  • heat cramps – cramps affecting the legs or abdomen
  • heat exhaustion –paleness, sweatiness, fast heart rate, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting. 

What can I do to avoid a heat-related illness?

Firstly, be aware of weather forecasts and warnings in your area and plan your day to suit. A planned mid-afternoon bushwalk on a 40°C day might best be swapped for an afternoon indoors or in the pool! 

If you are outside on hot days, stay hydrated. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, drinking plenty of water can help reduce the risk of heat-related illnesses. Wear protective clothing including a light-weight, long-sleeved shirt, a hat and sunglasses, and apply sunscreen throughout the day.

Be sure to check in on elderly relatives or neighbours, children in your care and family or friends with an existing medical condition, to make sure they are also taking steps to avoid heat-related illnesses. 

There is more information about heat-related illness on this Tasmanian Department of Health web page.

Health risks of bushfire smoke

Bushfires are an unfortunate feature of Australian summers, and people exposed to bushfire smoke can have poor health effects due to poor air quality.

The Tasmanian Department of Health has prepared this fact sheet to help people understand how bushfire smoke can affect their health, and what to do if they notice any symptoms as a result of exposure.

How can I get help or advice after hours?

If you suspect that you or someone else has heat stress or other non-emergency heat-related symptoms and your regular GP isn’t available, you can call the healthdirect Australia helpline on 1800 022 222. A registered nurse will be able to provide advice and, if needed, connect you with a doctor, chemist or medical service open near you.

The information on this page is general in nature – we encourage people to speak to a health professional about their individual circumstances.

While the Australian Government Department of Health has contributed to the funding of this website, the information on this website does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Government and is not advice that is provided, or information that is endorsed, by the Australian Government. The Australian Government is not responsible in negligence or otherwise for any injury, loss or damage however arising from the use of or reliance on the information provided on this website.