Each year in Australia, hot weather and heatwaves cause illnesses, hospitalisations and sometimes even death. Shockingly, heatwaves have historically killed more Australians than all other natural hazards combined. Yes, we are lucky enough to live in the Sunshine State and as such our Queensland climate encourages an outdoor lifestyle, however, we also know that exposure to the Queensland sun comes with risks. Hot weather can cause heat-related illnesses including dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and worsening of any existing medical conditions. Additionally, in Queensland, skin damage can occur after only 10 minutes of exposure when the ultraviolet (UV) index is at 3 or above. In Queensland, the UV index is 3 or above all year round, even in winter.
If temperatures continue to rise as predicted, heat waves will become more frequent, hotter, and last longer. Heatwaves add an additional element for concern and happen when temperatures are above 34 degrees for more than a few days in a row. This weather is often combined with high humidity which makes for exhausting conditions. In Australia, heatwaves usually range from 37°C to 42°C.
Heatwaves can impact anyone. However, there are members in our community who are particularly vulnerable and need to take special care during heat waves. This includes babies and young people, the elderly, pregnant and breastfeeding people, people with medical conditions such as asthma, pets, and people who work in the outdoors. This is why we all need to know how to prepare for high temperatures, and how to provide first aid for heat-induced health conditions.
Did you know that heat-related illnesses can quickly become life-threatening? If you or someone near you is very unwell and does not respond to cooling and rehydration quickly (within 10 minutes), call Triple Zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.
Heat-related illness symptoms may look like –
- Heat rash
- Heat cramps
- Heat exhaustion
Did you know that heat stroke occurs when the body temperature is not controlled properly, and it rises above 40°C? It is the most serious heat-related illness and is a life-threatening emergency. Immediate first aid aimed at lowering the body temperature as quickly as possible is very important.
Heat stroke symptoms may look like –
- A sudden rise in body temperature (above 40°C)
- Red, hot dry skin (because sweating has stopped — though the person may still be sweaty if they have been exercising)
- Intense thirst
- Rapid pulse and rapid, shallow breathing
- Nausea and vomiting
- Aggressive or bizarre behaviour, confusion, poor coordination or slurred speech
- Loss of consciousness, seizures or coma
If you suspect you or someone else has heat stroke, call triple zero (000) immediately and ask for an ambulance.
To avoid any heat-related illness or heat stroke symptoms at our Mother Duck services this summer, we are committed to meeting our obligations to protect every child from harm or hazard, including keeping your child safe from the dangers of the Queensland sun and high temperatures.
As the change of season from spring to summer fast approaches, Mother Duck as an organisation has reviewed and updated our Sun Safe Policy and ensures this document is revisited and followed by all educators. Our physical environments are being designed and altered with additional shade and cooling in mind, and comprehensive risk assessments of our premises and equipment are developed that include protecting children from the risks of overheated play equipment and surfaces.
At Mother Duck, we know that fresh air and sunlight is vital for growing healthy and happy children and as such we offer children the daily choice and freedom to move between our indoor and outdoor environments. We understand that being outdoors also accommodates many children’s need for more space to enjoy more complex physical activities, however, we ultimately recognise that during the hotter months, playground equipment and surfaces can heat up rapidly and retain heat, which is a serious burns risk to children.
Are you familiar with our Sun Safe Policy and best practice procedures at your Mother Duck service?
- Ask for a copy of our policy, have a read, and ask your questions
- Check out the www.startingblocks.gov.au website for more information on “Sun protection at your child’s service – what to expect.”
We also consistently risk assess each of our outdoor environments with regular consideration given to the following four concepts –
- Regularly checking the temperature of outdoor facilities and equipment on hot, sunny days to see if they are safe for children to use including reviewing surfaces that children may touch, kneel, sit or lie on
- Making sure all equipment and surfaces are suitable for outdoor use by checking manufacturers’ warnings and instructions and following Kidsafe Playground Safety Information Sheets and recommendations
- Assessing and deciding if children should be wearing shoes outside during the hottest times of the year
- Revisiting educator obligations around understanding the importance of testing outdoor surface temperatures and following manufacturer/ installer instructions for equipment use.
At Mother Duck we strictly follow, role model and support children and families to respect and adhere to the below five sun protection principles –
Graphic Source: Heathdirect
In addition to supporting each child to wear hats, appropriate protective clothing and sunscreen, our organisation also safeguards each of our early childhood physical environments by creating well-designed indoor and outdoor spaces that provide generous cooling and shade.
Indoors you will discover that we have air-conditioned the majority of our services with the remaining scheduled for completion this year. Outdoors our shade structures include blinds, large veranda spaces with solid shading, the use of umbrellas, generous shade sail structures, and trees and natural surfaces that reflect less UV. These intentional design elements help to cool the grounds, reduce heat and improve the natural environment at the same time. We regularly consider if our service shade structures should be added to or changed to protect areas such as play equipment from direct sunlight at different times of the day.
To all our Mother Duck family and friends: stay safe, hydrated and healthy this summer, and be assured that whilst your child is in our care that their health, safety and wellbeing are our highest priority, particularly during these hotter months.