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Continuing heatwave prompts health fears

Friday March 8, 2013 - 17:28 EDT
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Victoria's ambulance service says the symptoms of heat stroke should not be ignored. - ABC

Victoria's ambulance service is urging people to avoid heat stress as the state's heatwave continues.

Paramedics were called to six heat stress cases and seven cases of children locked in hot cars on Friday.

Daily maximum temperatures have been above 30 degrees Celsius since Monday and temperatures are forecast to hit 37C early next week.

Mildura is expecting top temperatures of 35C and above for the next six days.

Justin Dunlop, the head of emergency management at Ambulance Victoria, says it is important people drink water and wear sunscreen when outdoors.

''It's been very hot over the past few days and it's only going to get hotter,' he said.

Children and older people are particularly at risk.

"Ten, 20 minutes is disastrous for a child in the heat. We need to keep them out of the car unless the air conditioning is on and we're there with them," he said.

"We're aware that children can be locked in by accident, so we encourage parents to make sure they always have their keys in their hand when they get out of the car.

"We really want to get the message out there that people need to not only take care of themselves but others as well and that it's never okay to leave a child unattended in a car.

"Even 10 degrees can be the difference between life and death for a child locked in a car.

"Tests by Ambulance Victoria found that on a day like yesterday the inside of a car can heat up to 44-degrees within 10 minutes, and reach 60-degrees within 20 minutes," Mr Dunlop said..

He also says the elderly often have trouble staying cool and should be using air conditioning, if they have it, despite the cost.

"We need to make sure that they're being checked on, that they've got the air conditioning on and that they're drinking plenty of water," he said.

One of the key symptoms of heat stroke is when people stop sweating and start looking red and flushed.

"Headaches, nausea and vomiting, all of those general symptoms can be the indications of heat stroke," Mr Dunlop said.

"They shouldn't be ignored. They need to be rehydrated with lots of water and if necessary call triple-0 if it's a life threatening emergency."

Phil King from the weather bureau says it has been an extraordinary start to March.

"If the forecast comes to fruition, then we'll see not only a long run of days above 30C and nights above 20C, but average temperatures well above the previous records," he said.

"We're looking quite likely to be setting a record hot start for the first two weeks of March."

The normal temperatures for March are in the range of 13C overnight and 24C in the daytime.


© ABC 2013

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