Community Safety

Handling a Heat Wave

Temperatures in December and January can hit well over 30°C and have you feeling hot, exhausted and even feeling ill. High temperatures associated with heatwaves can be detrimental to plants, animals and humans.

According to the Oxford Dictionary a heatwave is a period of an unusually hot weather that typically lasts two or more days. To be considered a heatwave, the temperatures have to be outside the historical averages for a given area.

The City of Ekurhuleni Disaster and Emergency Management Services (DEMS) caution residents not to overlook the risks that come with heatwaves. The main risks are:

  • Dehydration,
  • Overheating,
  • Heat exhaustion,
  • Heat stroke.


This is when water loss exceeds water intake, usually due to exercise, disease, or high environmental temperature.

The most common warning signs and symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Dry skin,
  • Dry mouth (an early sign),
  • Sleepiness,
  • Thirst (an early sign),
  • Decreased urination,
  • Muscle weakness,
  • Fatigue,

Treatment of Dehydration:

  • Dress lightly
  • Rest in a shady areas,
  • Drink plenty of water,
  • Try an oral rehydration solution as it will help replace salt and other minerals lost – you can buy this in sachets from any pharmacy,
  • If you experience craps, rest, stretch and massage the muscles that hurt,
  • If you still feel unwell once hydrated seek medical attention.

Heat Exhaustion:

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Confusion,
  • Dark coloured urine,
  • Dizziness,
  • Fainting,
  • Fatigue,
  • Headaches,
  • Muscular or abdominal cramps,
  • Nausea and vomiting or diarrhoea,
  • Pale skin,
  • Profuse sweating,
  • Rapid pulse rate.

Treatment of Heat Exhaustion:

  • Move out of the heat to a cooler room or shady place,
  • Drink plenty of fluid, especially sports drinks to replace lost salt,
  • Remove any tight or unnecessary clothing,
  • Take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath to cool down the body temperature,

If this does not help with 15 minutes, seek emergency medical care because untreated heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.  

Heat Stoke:

Also known as sun stroke, this is severe heat illness that results in a body temperature greater than 40°C.

Signs and symptoms of heat stroke:

  • Dizziness or light-headedness,
  • Seizures or coma,
  • Nausea and vomiting,
  • Flushed and reddened skin,
  • Slurred speech,
  • Agitation,
  • Disorientation,
  • Delirium,

Heat stroke is a serious medical condition that can lead to organ failure and even death. 

Treatment of Heat Stroke:     

  • You need to cool down urgently, cold water immersion will bring the core body temperature and brain back to normality within an hour.
  • Seek prompt medical intervention as soon as possible.
  • Avoid sugary, sweetened drinks, alcohol and caffeine because they will cause increased urination and electrolyte loss.

Don’t wait until you are thirsty to start drinking water; by then, you are already becoming dehydrated and putting yourself at risk of heat stroke.