PARENTS and teachers have been warned to be vigilant in protecting children from heat stress as hundreds of thousands of students return to school this week.
The Climate Council has issued a poster that can be displayed in classrooms with tips on how to stay healthy in a heatwave.
The tips include training children in heat safety, modifying class schedules to avoid exertion during the hottest parts of the day and ensuring children have easy access to water.
Heat and health expert Dr Liz Hanna said children are one of the most at-risk groups from extreme heat due to a reduced ability to regulate their core body temperature.
“People tend to overestimate their ability to cope in heat extremes and children rely on the adults taking care of them to protect them,” she said.
“Extreme temperatures can have a serious impact on teaching and learning as well as the health of students so it’s important that schools take precautions.”
The Climate Council’s Professor Will Steffen said heatwaves were becoming longer, hotter and more intense in Australia.
“The number of hot days in Australia has more than doubled in the last 50 years,” he said.
“For both northern and southern Australia, 1-in-20 year extreme hot days are expected to occur every two to five years by the middle of the century if we don’t rapidly and deeply cut our emissions.
“The decisions we make over this decade will largely determine the severity of extreme heat our children and grandchildren experience.”
Dr Hanna said the education sector was increasingly grappling with how to protect children from more frequent and intense heatwaves.
“These more frequent and more intense heat waves are a growing health threat. We have a duty of care to understand those risks, and protect our vulnerable children,” she added.
The Climate Council has produced an A3 poster for schools that is available for download here.
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