Heat wave warning and prevention tips of heat exhaustion

The Tshwane Emergency Services Department (EMS) wishes to caution members of the community about the anticipated extremely hot weather conditions as predicted by the South African Weather Services. This heat is expected to be with us for at least a week, however, will return from time to time during this summer season.

The Emergency Services Department is always ready to respond to any incident related to heat wave and residents are urged to report such cases related to heat waves to the Emergency Control Centre on 012 358 6300/6400.  

Residents are reminded of the following critical information to adhere to under extremely hot weather conditions: 

Extremely high temperatures can be life threatening for children as they spend more time outdoors and are more active, adults exercising outdoors, people with who suffer from lung or airway diseases, elderly people and people with disabilities as well as people with diseases like epilepsy in particular, as they are most vulnerable to heat wave that can result in heat exhaustion.

Heat exhaustion occurs  when a person exercises or works in a hot environment and the body cannot cool itself adequately. Should sweating be insufficient to meet the cooling demands of the body, heat-related illnesses can occur. These heat related illnesses are presented with minor symptoms such as heat rash, which progresses to heat cramps, then heat exhaustion, and finally to heat stroke (a life-threatening medical condition).

Dehydration occurs, as excessive sweating causes loss of water, which leads to muscle cramps, weakness, nausea and vomiting. This makes it difficult to drink enough fluid to replenish the body’s water supply. The lack of body water impairs further sweating, evaporation and cooling. Heat exhaustion presents symptoms such as profuse sweating, weakness, muscle cramps, headache, nausea and vomiting.

Relative humidity is another important factor in developing heat exhaustion. If the humidity is too high, sweat on the skin cannot evaporate into the surrounding air and the body cannot cool down.

Heat exhaustion can be treated as follows:

·         Cooling and rehydration are the cornerstones of treating heat exhaustion. Affected people should stop their activity and move from the hot environment to a cooler environment. The person may be placed in the shade or taken to an air-conditioned environment (remember that cars have air conditioning). Clothes may be removed to help with air circulation across the body. Misting the skin with cool water also helps, as it stimulates evaporation and cools the body.

·         Rehydration is the next important step in treating heat exhaustion. This may be a challenge if the person is nauseous and vomits. Small sips of water, a mouthful at a time, might be tolerated even if some vomiting persists. Water, sports drinks and other electrolyte replacements are good options.

·         If oral rehydration fails or if symptoms persist, intravenous fluids may be required to replace the water lost through excessive sweating. Hydration continues until the patient begins to urinate, a signal that there is enough fluid in the body and fluid need not be retained any longer.

The following precautionary measures can be taken:

  • Use sun protection lotion when you work or play outdoors.
  • Protect the eyes from direct sunlight by wearing sun glasses or a hat with a peak.
  • Take enough water or other fluids during the day.
  • All elective sporting activities or physical exertion should be cancelled on the midst of a heat wave;
  • Make sure that animals have clean and sufficient water.
  • If you are in a swimming pool or other open water, use a sun block as water attracts UV rays which causes severe burns that will only be visible later the day.
  • Monitor someone with symptoms of heat exhaustion closely to ensure they do not lose consciousness or seizures, which could be fatal.
  • Drink water that is at room temperature, rather than ice-cold fluids.
  • However, continue to use water wisely, since we and our country need water daily to function properly, now and in the future.


Issued by Emergency Services


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