Top tips: How to stay cool in the heat

20 December 2017
As temperatures start to soar in Australia, our people are leading research on how to protect the vulnerable during heatwaves.

With the increasing frequency, intensity and duration of heatwaves in Australia and growing concerns around climate change, Dr Ollie Jay and his team are researching simple, cost-effective and sustainable ways to stay cool.

“It often comes as a surprise to many that over the past 20 years heatwaves, both in Australia and overseas, have caused more deaths than all other natural disasters combined,” said Dr Jay, Director of the Thermal Ergonomics Laboratory in the University’s Faculty of Health Sciences.

“The most vulnerable people in a heatwave are the elderly, poor, and especially people with pre-existing cardiovascular diseases as a cardiac event is among the leading causes of death during extreme conditions.”

While air conditioning is the most effective way to mitigate the physiological strain of extreme temperatures, Dr Jay says more than twenty-five percent of Australian’s do not have air conditioning (AC) in their homes.

“Furthermore rising electricity prices, and the likelihood of blackouts associated with Australia’s imminent energy crisis makes the reliance on widespread AC use problematic. The sustained annual increase in CO2 emissions associated with AC use in Australia also cements our status as one of the top polluters per capita in the world,” said Dr Jay.

On a hot summer’s day maintaining body temperature within safe limits is essential for optimal health, but the only way to do this in hot and humid conditions is through the evaporation of sweat from the skin.

3 tips to stay cool in the heat

Dr Ollie Jay recommends to;

  1. Wet your arms, neck and legs
  2. Increase airflow across the skin with an electric fan
  3. Wrap crushed ice cubes in a wet towel and place around your neck

$1.1 million National Health and Medical Research Council grant awarded to Dr Jay and colleagues last week will allow the team to further their work into evidence-based ways to beat the heat and provide the best public health advice during heatwaves.

People showing severe signs of heat-related illness should seek urgent medical attention through their GP or the emergency department at their nearest hospital. See more information at NSW Health.

Michelle Blowes

Media and PR Adviser (Health)

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