Premium Health’s Summer Health and Safety Series: Part 2
After a busy year of school, work and everything in-between, there’s nothing quite like a long, lazy Australian summer to lift our spirits and calm our minds. But for Phillipa Wilson, Premium Health Managing Director and Secretary of the Australian Resuscitation Council (ARC) VIC Branch, there’s more to the ‘silly season’ than beach BBQs and ‘Slip Slop Slap’.
With hot weather comes a different set of health and safety risks, and while we Aussies are great at preventing some of them – i.e. teaching our kids to swim, fencing our pools and staying ‘Sun Smart’ – it’s critical we learn the life-saving skills to respond when things do go wrong.
In addition to our tips on drowning incidents, keep this guide to heat-induced illnesses in mind when the hot weather hits.
What is heat-induced illness?
Heat-induced illnesses like heat exhaustion, and the more serious heat stroke, are typically a result of our body’s excessive heat absorption from being in a hot environment, or excessive heat production from metabolic activity.
For most of us, staying out of the sun, upping our water intake and avoiding intensive physical exercise during the hottest hours in the day will be enough to keep us safe, but not everybody is equipped to cope.
By now, most Australians are aware that infants and the elderly are more prone to heat-induced illnesses, but what a lot of us don’t know is that certain drugs, infections, and, in particular, viral illnesses can affect our body’s natural cooling and heat regulating mechanisms. So if you’re unwell, or under the influence of certain drugs, you may be at even greater risk.
So what does a heat-induced illness look like?
Heat exhaustion is a more common, less serious form of heat-induced illness. Symptoms typically include dizziness and fatigue, headaches, nausea, vomiting, sweating and, as it worsens, fainting or collapse. If not treated, heat exhaustion can rapidly progress to heat stroke.
Heat stroke is far more serious as it can affect every organ in the body. The natural cooling system of a person with heat stroke breaks down and they generally have hot (to touch) dry skin. Their body temperature will be over 40 degrees, and they may seem confused, and experience altered states of consciousness. If you recognise any of these symptoms, it’s important to act fast – particularly in the case of an infant or elderly person.
How can I help?
If you suspect someone is suffering from a heat-induced illness, the best course of action is to immediately remove the cause and aid the victim’s natural cooling mechanisms. If the victim is an infant, elderly, drug-affected, or otherwise unwell, call for an ambulance right away as this is a medical emergency that can quickly lead to unconsciousness, or even death.
The following steps are based on the ARC guidelines:
- Lie the victim in a cool environment or in the shade
- Remove any excessive clothing
- Moisten their skin with a damp cloth or water spray
- Cool by fanning
- If conscious, give the victim cool water to drink
- Call an ambulance if the victim isn’t responding or if the victim is presenting any signs of heat stroke
Premium Health’s summer safety checklist
- Think ‘sun smart’: slip on a t-shirt, slop on some sunscreen, slap on a hat – and slide on those shades!
- Keep hydrated, and try to up your water intake from 8 to 10 glasses per day
- Keep a First Aid Kit (and this guide!) in your beach bag, or poolside
- NEVER leave infants, children, the elderly or pets in parked vehicles
- Look out for your elderly relatives and neighbours, and ensure they have access to plenty of fluids and adequate ventilation if not air conditioning
In this sunburnt country, fun in the sun doesn’t come without a cost. And it’s up to every one of us to not only understand the risks of heat-induced illnesses, but to learn the necessary steps to respond confidently and capably in times of need.
Premium Health’s ‘Remote Area First Aid’ training
An ambulance isn’t always around the corner. ‘Provide First Aid in Remote Situations’ is a nationally accredited course that develops the knowledge and skills required to provide a remote first aid response and emergency life support to a casualty in remote or isolated environment. So if you’re planning on hiking, biking, trekking, climbing or camping this summer, this is the course for you!