Heatwaves a sign of high health risks: Prof

Cousins Latrell Devlin, 5, and Mia Kasper, 3, keep cool in an old bathtub.
Cousins Latrell Devlin, 5, and Mia Kasper, 3, keep cool in an old bathtub. Claudia Baxter

AMBULANCE officers can expect more call-outs to people with cardiovascular, respiratory and other chronic conditions in sweltering temperatures, says public health researcher Professor Shilu Tong.

"Every degree in temperature above 22 degrees brings a 1.2 percent rise in ambulance call-outs for people with underlying conditions," Professor Tong, from the Queensland University of Technology's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, said.

Pregnant women are also at a higher risk of pre-term or stillborn births as the temperature rise, says Associate Professor Adrian Barnett, also from IHBI.

Prof Barnett said some people who were already sick in Brisbane could die in the next few days from the effects of the excessive heat.

"Heatwaves together with power cuts are very serious, not just for sick people.

"We had better get used to days like this, because climate change is predicted to increase the intensity and frequency of heat waves in Australia."

QUT emergency medicine expert Prof Gerard Fitzgerald was Queensland's Chief Health Officer in 2004 when a Brisbane heatwave claimed more than 80 lives.

"The best advice is to keep drinking fluids," he said.

"Drink lots of water and monitor your urine. If it's dark, drink more because it should be clear.

"It's also important to keep your electrolytes up. Drink energy drinks or water mixed with electrolyte powder or tablets. This is especially important for the elderly and other people in high-risk health groups."


Tips for coping with the heat

  • Check that the elderly are keeping hydrated and cool
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Dress lightly
  • Be active in the early morning and late evening, and stay inside during the middle of the day
  • Take cold showers
  • Use wet washers to cool your body


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Topics:  health heat lifestyle summer weather

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