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Heat Wave Alert

With the higher temperatures of summer upon us, so too are heatwaves that can be detrimental to plants, animals and humans.

According to the Oxford Dictionary a heatwave is a period of 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.

Some places can be hit by heatwaves and endure a prolonged and persistent period of abnormally hot weather. This can pose serious health risks and even fire hazards.

The City of Ekurhuleni Disaster and Emergency Management Services (DEMS) caution residents not to overlook the risks that come with heat waves before it is too late.

The main risks of heatwaves are:

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


This is when there is a deficit of total body water, accompanied by disruption of metabolic processes. It occurs 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 within 15 minutes, seek emergency medical care because untreated heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.  

Heat Stoke:

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

Signs and symptoms:

  • 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.  

For life threatening emergencies, please contact:

  • 011 458 0911          : Life Threatening Ekurhuleni Emergency Line
  • 10177                     : National Toll-Free Number
  • 112                         : Cellphone