12:01am Wednesday 22 January 2020

Heatwave alert: keep cool and stay healthy

  • Kidney, heart and breathing-related problems and deaths will rise
  • Pregnant women at risk
  • Older people particularly susceptible

Associate Professor Adrian Barnett of QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI) who has conducted research that found temperature-related deaths account for 6,500 years of life lost in Brisbane alone each year.

“The figure is so high because Brisbane has a very narrow comfort zone of a mean temperature between 20-25°C, on days when the temperature is above or below this range we tend to see an increase in years of life lost,” Professor Barnett said.

“With temperatures set to rise to 39 degrees it is vital to keep cool and hydrated. There will be more admissions for kidney problems, heart attacks and respiratory problems on Saturday and the next few days.

“There are some key things we should all do to weather the heat:

  • Avoid alcohol – it dehydrates you
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Don’t let yourself get too hot – rest inside during the hottest part of the day, preferably in air conditioning. “Don’t be afraid to turn the air-con on, even if you don’t feel hot.”
  • Take cold showers
  • Head to a shopping centre if you don’t have air-con.”

Professor Barnett’s previous four-year study has shown pregnant women should take extra care to remain cool to avoid preterm or even stillbirth.

“We found that increases in temperature increased the risk of stillbirth, particularly in the earlier stages of pregnancy before 28 weeks,” he said.

“High temperatures also shortened gestation times, which mean more preterm babies who often have serious long-term health problems such as cerebral palsy and impaired vision and hearing.”

Media contact: Niki Widdowson, 3138 2999 or n.widdowson@qut.edu.au.

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