A spate of heatwaves prompts warnings by NSW Health

Brad Buzzard 4 December 2017

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Rising temperatures may lead to an increase in deaths.

NSW Health is urging residents to stay cool this summer in light of recent figures showing that heatwaves lead to a 10% increase in deaths.

Heat records are being smashed all across Australia, with New South Wales experiencing seven consecutive days in November with temperatures above 24 degrees, a first since 1968.

Suffice it to say, the warning is timely.

NSW Health’s Director of Environmental Health Dr Ben Scalley co-authored a study analysing the health effects of heat events from 2005 - 2015 and their impact on mortality, hospitalisations and ambulance call-outs. The study found that extreme heatwaves are associated with a 10.8% increase in deaths, a 3.4% increase in hospital presentations and 10.9% hike in ambulance call-outs.

The results of the study support several recent international studies that have linked heatwaves with significant impacts on human health and mortality.

“Prolonged periods of very hot weather can be dangerous because hot weather can overheat the human body, leading to a range of serious illnesses,” Dr Scalley said in a statement.

Some people are more vulnerable than others, particularly seniors, infants, people with chronic illnesses and those who live alone.

NSW residents can protect themselves by taking a number of precautions including drinking plenty of water, minimising physical activity, planning activities around the heat, wearing light clothing, avoiding alcohol and sugary drinks, keeping the windows and blinds closed during the day, wearing a hat and sunscreen while out and spending time in an air-conditioned environment whenever possible.

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