Heatwave conditions: Australians urged not to be superheroes during summer heat

A Queensland professor wants people to be aware of the stress that heat places on the body during hot summer months.

With heatwave conditions experienced in many states this week, the risk of heatstroke and other heat-related illnesses has increased for young and old.

Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Associate Professor Adrian Barnett said many Australians forget the effect extreme heat can have on the human body.

These hot days are growing each year with heatwaves happening around ten times a year.

Associate Professor Adrian Barnett

"Existing heart conditions are exacerbated by heat as the body has to work harder to keep cool," he told 612 ABC Brisbane's Terri Begley.

"We see a rise in emergency hospital admission for renal problems in adults and in children as it's a sign of under-hydration.

"These hot days are a test to our cardiovascular system and we do see increases in very serious things like death during the heat."

Associate Professor Barnett said people often think they can tolerate the heat but their body is likely struggling.

"A reaction I often hear is, 'I don't feel the heat, I'm used to it' — you may not be feeling it but your internal system is working hard," he said.

"Don't think that you're a superhero."

Be prepared for the heat

 
Associate Professor Barnett said it was important for everyone to know the warning signs.

"These hot days are growing each year with heatwaves happening around 10 times a year," he said.

"But we shouldn't think that only these days are dangerous, because when you look over the whole year the hot days that aren't very hot occur more frequently.

"These cause a bigger burden to hospitals and society."

Once the average temperature heads above 25 degrees, Associate Professor Barnett said the chance of heatstroke increased.

Heat stress signs to watch out for

He said people needed to act quickly if they felt heat affecting their body.

"Once you feel uncomfortable, your heart starts to feel distress straight away and you need to take measures straight away," he said.

"The cardiovascular system starts to work hard and your blood pressure rises and your heart rate rises as your body tries to keep cool.

"Heatstroke is a very serious condition and that's where you have long exposure to the heat."

Signs to watch out for include dizziness, being tired and feeling thirsty.

"If you start to get cramps, it's getting really serious," he said.

"If there's anything like nausea, vomiting or if you stop sweating, they are very serious signs and you should call triple-0."

He advised people who are overweight, on medication, women who are pregnant, young children and elderly people to be extra vigilant.

"It's all about prevention so keep yourself hydrated, do your exercise in the morning and evenings and watch out for others," Associate Professor Barnett said.

"Avoid the really hot times of day ... by 9:00am it can be hot and uncomfortable.

"No-one is immune to this stuff and people have a threshold in which their body will say it's had enough."

Source: ABC News

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