Summer has officially arrived and the countdown to Christmas has begun – with Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand calling for people to stay cool and look out for whānau with the intense heat predicted these holidays.
“With El Niño set to bring particularly hot, dry days, it’s important that we all think about sun protection and hydration, particularly if out with young and old whānau members enjoying the sunshine,” says Dr Sarah Clarke, National Clinical Director, Primary and Community Care, Te Whatu Ora.
“The age-old advice to slip, slop, slap and wrap should be top of mind, as well as to seek shade, keep hydrated and check first whether it’s safe to swim at your local swimming spot.”
When you’re heading for the water, don’t forget to visit ‘Can I Swim Here?’ section of the Land Water Aotearoa (LAWA) website at www.lawa.org.nz to view the latest information.
Dr Clarke says if you’re planning on heading to a popular holiday hotspot, to think about your health needs in advance.
“Pharmacies outside the main centres may not carry some medicines, or have limited stock, so it is best to be prepared and take what you need with you,” she says.
“If you or a whānau member is running low on prescription medication, please contact your local GP or healthcare provider now to book an appointment.”
Most general practices across the motu will be either closed or operating limited hours over the Christmas and New Year period. Visit www.healthpoint.co.nz for up-to-date information on GP and pharmacy opening hours.
Hospital emergency departments and many urgent care clinics will remain open – so if it’s an emergency, always call 111 or go to ED if you are seriously unwell or if it’s a life-threatening emergency.
People are also encouraged to consider packing a first aid kit, including a supply of paracetamol or ibuprofen, and some over-the-counter medications for cough and cold symptoms.
“With COVID-19 still circulating in our communities, it is also a good idea to pack some RATs, hand sanitiser and face masks in case you need them,” Dr Clarke says. “If you get sick whether you’re at home or away, call Healthline on 0800 611 116 for free medical advice 24/7 – interpreter support is available.
“If you’re not sure what to do or where you can get in-person health care, Healthline can also advise what services are open wherever you are in the country.”
You can also call your own GP after hours – your phone call will be redirected to their after-hours service. A rural after-hours telehealth service launched late last month is another option too.
People in rural areas can access the service by calling 0800 2 KA ORA (0800 252 672) or book online at kaora.co.nz directly or via referral from their rural healthcare provider. The service runs from 5pm to 8am on weekdays and 24 hours a day at weekends and on public holidays.
“The holiday season can be a difficult time for some of us and contribute to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Remember to check in on your family, friends and neighbours, even a friendly wave or a quick phone call can keep everyone feeling connected,” says Dr Sarah Clarke.
For wellbeing support, free call or text 1737 any time, 24 hours a day. You can also call Lifeline at 0800 543354 or text HELP at 4357. Visit the All Sorts website to find ways to boost your wellbeing this summer.
Here are some simple steps to keep cool this summer:
- Plan ahead - check the forecast, pack enough water and food, use a chiller bag.
- Drink plenty of water and encourage your children to drink often.
- Stay out of the sun, find shade outside wherever possible and stay indoors when you can and wear loose and light cotton clothing.
- If you have to be outside, remember to Slip, Slop, Slap and Wrap.
- Don’t leave children or pets unattended in parked cars.
- Keep a close eye on neighbours, especially the elderly, to check they’re okay. Remember, children, older people or those with health concerns may find it more difficult to cope with the heat.
- Keep your house cool by opening windows and doors on the shaded side and close curtains and blinds to keep the sun out. Opening windows at opposite ends of a room can help with cross-ventilation.
- Keep wet flannels in the fridge to help you cool down, or take a cold shower.
- Use a fan if you have one, particularly for elderly relatives.
- You can also identify locations nearby with air conditioning that are free to access such as libraries, shopping malls and other public spaces.
- Keep cool while exercising. If possible, exercise or do outdoor activities early in the morning or later in the evening.
- Don’t forget to call Healthline on 0800 611 116 for free health advice.
For further information about managing heat, visit: Heat Health Plans: Guidelines and key information
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