Know the effects of extreme heat, who is at risk and how you can prepare yourself and others.

Heat kills more Australians than any natural disaster

  • Extreme heat can affect anybody. 
  • Heat can cause illnesses such as heat cramps and heat exhaustion which can lead to the life-threatening condition, heatstroke. Heatstroke is fatal in up to 80% of cases.
  • Those most at risk are older people, young children and people with a medical condition.
Extreme Heat - graphic 

Effects of heat on the body

Watch the below video to learn how extreme heat can impact the body:

Additional heat videos

In 2009 and again in 2014, major heatwaves negatively impacted the health of Victorians. In both instances, heatwaves resulted in significant loss of life, with an estimated 374 excess deaths in 2009 and 167 in 2014.

Extreme heat can affect anybody. Those most at risk are older people, young children and people with a medical condition.

Survive the heat this summer with these five simple tips:

Water bottle icon Drink plenty of water 

Car icon Never leave anyone in a car

Fan icon Stay somewhere cool

Clock icon Plan ahead

Child with adult icon Check in on others

Recognising heat-related illness

Heat can cause illnesses such as heat cramps and heat exhaustion which can lead to the life-threatening condition, heatstroke. Heatstroke is fatal in up to 80% of cases.

Heat can also worsen the condition of someone who already has a medical issue such as heart disease or diabetes. Most reported illness and death is due to the effect of heat on those who are already ill.

If you or someone you know is unwell call NURSE-ON-CALL on 1300 60 60 24 for 24-hour health advice or see your doctor. 

In an emergency, call 000.

Know the symptoms of heat-related illness

  • Heat cramps


    • Muscle pains
    • Spasms in the abdomen, arms or legs

    What to do

    • Stop activity and sit quietly in a cool place
    • Drink cool water
    • Rest a few hours before returning to activity
    • See a doctor if cramps persist

  • Heat exhaustion


    • Pale complexion and sweating
    • Rapid heart rate
    • Muscle cramps, weakness
    • Dizziness, headache
    • Nausea, vomiting
    • Fainting

    What to do

    • Go to a cool area and lie down
    • Fan if possible
    • Drink cool water if not vomiting
    • Remove outer clothing
    • Wet skin with cool water or wet cloths
    • See a doctor
  • Heat stroke
    Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency - call 000


    • Same symptoms as heat exhaustion except sweating stops
    • Mental condition worsens, confusion
    • Seizure
    • Stroke-like symptoms or collapsing
    • Unconsciousness

    What to do

    • Call an ambulance - phone 000
    • Get the person to a cool area and lay them down
    • Remove clothing
    • Wet skin with water, fanning continuously
    • Position an unconscious person on their side and clear their airway


Survive the heat tips

Water bottle iconDrink plenty of water

  • Keep a full drink bottle with you.
  • Take small sips of water frequently.
  • If your doctor normally limits your fluids, check how much you should drink during hot weather. 

Car iconNever leave anyone in a car

  • Never leave kids, adults or pets in cars – the temperature can double in minutes.
  • Visit the Never Leave Kids in Cars page for more information on kids in hot cars.

Fan iconStay somewhere cool

  • Spend as much time as possible in cool or air-conditioned buildings (shopping centres, libraries, cinemas or community centres). 
  • Keep yourself cool by using wet towels, putting your feet in cool water and taking cool (not cold) showers. 
  • Block out the sun at home during the day by closing curtains and blinds. 
  • Open the windows when there is a cool breeze. 
  • Stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day. 
  • If you must go out, wear a hat and sunscreen and take a bottle of water with you.
  • Dress yourself and those in your care lightly.
  • Wear light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing made from natural fibres like cotton and linen. 
  • Eat smaller meals more often and cold meals such as salads. 
  • Make sure food that needs refrigeration is properly stored. 
  • Avoid intense activity like exercise, renovating and gardening. 
  • Watch or listen to news reports for more information.
  • Don’t forget your pets – a cool bath, wet towel to lie on, a place next to a fan and plenty of fresh water work just as well for animals. 

Clock iconPlan ahead

  • Keep up to date with weather forecasts – watch the news daily, check the BOM forecast online and read the current heat health alert on health.vic.
  • Cancel non-essential outings and plan essential activities for the coolest part of the day.
  • Stock up on food, water and medicines so you don’t have to go out in the heat.
  • Visit your doctor to check if changes are needed to your medicines during extreme heat. 
  • Store medicines safely at the recommended temperature. 
  • Check that your fan or air-conditioner works well. Have your air-conditioner serviced if necessary. 
  • Prepare for power failures - ensure you have a torch, battery-operated radio, fully charged mobile phone or battery back-up, food items that don’t require refrigeration, medications, plenty of drinking water and other essential items. 
  • Look at the things you can do to make your home cooler such as installing window coverings, shade cloths or external blinds on the sides of the house facing the sun.

Child with adult iconCheck in on others

  • Look after those most at risk in the heat – your neighbour living alone, older people, young children, people with a medical condition and don’t forget your pets.
  • Keep in touch with friends and family who may need help. Call or visit them at least once on any extreme heat day. 
  • Encourage them to drink plenty of water. 
  • Offer to help family, friends and neighbours who are aged over 65 or have an illness by doing shopping or other errands so they can avoid the heat.
  • Take them somewhere cool for the day or have them stay the night if they are unable to stay cool in their home. 
  • If you observe symptoms of heat-related illness, seek medical help.