Extreme heat and heatwaves

Photo of the sun in a blue sky with clouds

Heat kills more Australians than any natural disaster. 

Extreme heat or heatwave is a period of unusual and uncomfortable hot weather that can negatively affect our health.  

Extreme heat can also affect community infrastructure (such as power supply and public transport) and other services.


Who is most at risk during a heatwave?

  • People aged over 65 years, especially those living alone
  • People with a medical condition such as diabetes, kidney disease or mental illness
  • People taking medications that may affect the way their body reacts to heat such as: allergy medicines (antihistamines); blood pressure and heart medicines (beta-blockers); seizure medicines (anticonvulsants); water pills (diuretics); antidepressants or antipsychotics
  • Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers
  • Babies and young children
  • People who are overweight or obese
  • People with problematic alcohol or drug use
  • People with disability
  • People who have trouble moving around such as those who are bed-bound or in a wheelchair
  • People who work or exercise outdoors
  • People who have recently arrived from cooler climates

Prepare for extreme heat

If a heatwave is predicted, there are some simple ways to prepare for extreme heat:

  • Stock up on food, water and medicines so you don’t have to go out in the heat
  • Store medicines safely at the recommended temperature
  • Check that your fan or air-conditioner works well. Have your air-conditioner serviced if necessary
  • Reschedule or reconsider any plans that will involve a lot of sun exposure
  • Think about what you would do if a heatwave caused power failures or disruptions to public transport.
  • Think of a place you and your family can visit to escape the heat if you need to
  • Think of friends, family or neighbours who might be vulnerable and how you could care for them

In the longer term, you might also consider:

  • Ways to make your home cooler such as installing window coverings, shade cloths or external blinds on the sides of the house facing the sun
  • Installing an air conditioner or evaporative cooling

For a range of resources and templates to help you create your heatwave emergency plan visit Are you prepared?

Tips for surviving the heat

Drink water (even if you don’t feel thirsty)
  • 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. 

Hot cars kill
  • Never leave kids, adults or pets in cars. The temperature inside a parked car 
  • Visit the Never Leave Kids in Cars page for more information on kids in hot cars.
Keep cool
  • Spend time in cool or air-conditioned buildings (shopping centres, libraries, cinemas or community centres). 
  • Keep yourself cool by using damp towels containing ice, putting your feet in cool water and taking cool (not cold) showers. Dress yourself and those in your care in light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing made from natural fibres like cotton and linen.
  • Block out the sun at home during the day by closing curtains and blinds.
  • 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.
  • Avoid intense activity like exercise, renovating and gardening. If you must go out, wear a hat and sunscreen and take a bottle of water with you.
  • Don't forget your pets – a cool bath, a wet towel to lie on, a place next to a fan and plenty of fresh water work just as well for animals.
Plan ahead
  • Keep up to date with weather forecasts – watch the news daily, check the Bureau of Meteorology forecast online and read the current heat health alert on health.vic.gov.au
  • Cancel non-essential outings and plan essential activities for the coolest part of the day. Avoid exercising in the heat. 
  • Stock up on food, water and medicines so you don’t have to go out in the heat.
  • 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. 
Check in on others
  • Look after those most at risk in the heat – your neighbour living alone, the elderly, the young, people with a medical condition and don’t forget your pets.
  • Keep in touch with friends and family who may need help, especially those over the age of 65 or with illness. Call or visit them at least once on any extreme heat day. 

For more information visit Survive the heat - Better Health Channel

Signs and symptoms of 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 but it is preventable.

Symptoms of heat-related illness include:

  • Deterioration of existing medical conditions - most reported illness and death is due to the effect of heat on those who are already ill
  • Heat rash
  • Heat cramps
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Exhaustion

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, always call Triple Zero 000.

For more information on heat-related illness visit Survive the heat - Better Health Channel

Staying informed

The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) Heatwave Warning Service provides public heatwave warnings for severe or extreme heatwave conditions. These warnings are issued through the Bureau of Meteorology website and Bureau's Weather App (BoM Weather App) and telephone service. 

Keep up to date with weather forecasts:

What Council does during a heatwave

In the event of a heatwave, some Council services may be cancelled, altered or reduced. 

Make sure to check Council’s website and social media channels (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) for updates.

Find out more about what Council does during an emergency.