Should I send my child to school during a heat wave…and other hot-day questions, answered

by | Summer Health

Dr Michela Sorensen

B. Med, FRACGP, Dip Family Medicine

How can I prepare for a heatwave?

Preparing for extreme heat conditions may not seem quite so pressing for people who are acclimatised to hot summers, but with extreme heat causing more deaths than any other weather-related disaster, planning ahead is essential. We asked Dr Michael Sorensen how to get organised and what to consider when you’re making plans in seriously hot weather.

Thinking ahead is your very best strategy. “Check the forecast, try and make plans around the weather. If it’s going to be 38°C don’t meet in the park, do something indoors where there is air conditioning,” says Dr Sorensen.

Can I still exercise in hot weather?

Don’t want to skip a workout? If you can face day or two without your run, you might be better off. “My advice would be not to exercise on these really hot days, I’d say not to,” says Dr Sorensen. “But if you do it first thing in the morning or later in the evening, but certainly in those peaks of extreme heat, stay indoors and stay cool.”

What are the best drinks during a heatwave?

There really is no better drink than H2O when the temperatures rises. “I always say plenty of water, you could also try some electrolytes supplements,” says Dr Sorensen. As tempting as an icy cold beer or latte may be, try to stick to H20. “Avoiding alcohol, that dehydrates you, similarly monitoring your caffeine, caffeine speeds up your heart rate, it can increase your body temperature.”

Fancy labels and splashy billboards can make sports drink seem like a next-best option, but they shouldn’t be your go-to. “The issue is, they are incredibly sugary, so although they do have some electrolytes, and so I’ll often ask patients to dilute them with water,” says Dr Sorensen.  If you’re worried about electrolytes, having electrolyte supplements on hand (like hydralyte) can be useful.

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Should I send my child school during a heatwave?

When the mercury rises, it can be tricky knowing whether kids would be safer at home or at school. “It really depends on the school set up, some are well equipped and usually will have a plan in place for lunch and recess, but it really is case by case,” says Dr Sorensen. “Trust your gut, if you’re worried about your child then by all means keep thing home.” 

Who is most at risk during hot weather?

Because extreme heat can impact on how our bodies’ systems operate, anyone with a pre-existing medical condition should take extra care. When you’re making preparations of your own, stay in touch with elderly family and friends, and anyone who has health issues to make sure they have what they need to stay safe. “If you’ve got relatives who have underlying medical conditions, check in on them often,” says Dr Sorensen.

The WHO suggest several ways to keep cool and be resilient during heatwave, as follows (1):

1. Keep the home cool

  • Monitor the room temperature between 08:00 and 10:00, 13:00, and after 22:00 at night. Ideally, the ambient temperature should be kept below 32 degrees Celsius during the day and below 24 degrees Celsius at night. This is especially crucial for babies, persons over the age of 60, and those with chronic health concerns.
  • If possible, open all windows and shutters during the night and the early morning, when the outside temperature is lower and close the window and shutters during the day.
  • Electric fans may provide relief, but when the temperature is above 35 °C, it is important to turn on the air conditioner.

2. Keep out the heat

  • Move to the coolest room in the home.
  • If it is hard to keep your home cool, spend 2–3 hours of the day in a cool place (such as an airconditioned public building).
  • Avoid having outdoor activity during the hottest time of the day and avoid strenuous activity.

3. Keep the body cool and hydrated

  • Take cool showers, cold pack and wraps, foot bath, etc.
  • Use light bed linen and sheets, and no cushions, to avoid heat accumulation.
  • Wear light and loose clothes, brimmed hat or cap, and sunglasses.
  • Drink water regularly.

1. World Health Organization. Heat and Health [Internet]. World Health Organization. 2018 [cited 2023 Sep 22]. Available from:

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