04 December 2020

RACGP urges Australians to keep ‘COVID safe’ during summer heatwaves

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is urging Australians to take a different approach in times of heatwaves in order to stay ‘COVID safe’ this summer.

Chair RACGP Victoria Dr Anita Munoz said the advice for patients had to change this year due to the COVID-19 virus.

“We have done a great job in Australia to stop the COVID-19 virus spreading, and we don’t want to go backwards and see another spike in cases.

“This is why the RACGP is changing its advice for patients in times of extreme heat, particularly those who are more vulnerable, such as older people.

“We used to advise people to go to a public place with air conditioning on very hot days, such as a shopping centre, as we know many people don’t have access to a cool home.

“This year is different because we are still in the grips of a worldwide pandemic – COVID-19 is highly contagious, and the last thing we want is people, particularly vulnerable people, gathering in public places during heatwaves.

“Instead, we want to get the message out to people to prepare for the heat in other ways.

“Patients concerned about what to do in times of extreme heat should make an appointment with their GP – your GP can give you advice to suit your circumstances and concerns, including managing medicines during heatwaves, and how to stay hydrated and cool if you don’t have air conditioning.”

“I also urge everyone to look out for those who are more vulnerable in times of extreme heat. If you know someone who is more vulnerable, be they a neighbour, relative or friend, check in on them. A simple phone call can make a big difference.”

Advice for patients in extreme heat

·    Drink plenty of water

·    Keep your body cool. If you don’t have access to air conditioning and only have a fan, use a wet towel to dampen your skin and it will make the airflow feel cooler. If you don’t have a fan, just use a wet towel.

·    Keep your house cool. Draw the curtains or blinds to block out the sun.  

·    Keep your food safe. Don’t leave anything that might spoil out in the heat.

·    Stay safe in the sun. Wear sunscreen, a wide brimmed hat, protective clothes that cover as much skin as possible, sunglasses that meet Australian standards, and seek shade.

·    Stay tuned for instructions from emergency services authorities (such as to evacuate)

·    People who don’t have access to a private home should keep a bottle of water with them. Seek a cool, shady place, such as a public park with drinking taps, and stay safe in the sun.

·    Avoid exercise and sports on high/extreme heat days

·    Check in on vulnerable people you know during heat waves

·    Never leave children or pets in cars

The RACGP has a fact sheet for general practice on extreme weather in Australia, which includes heatwaves.

Media enquiries

Journalists and media outlets seeking comment and information from the RACGP can contact John Ronan, Ally Francis and Stuart Winthrope via: