Media release

Hot and Bothered: Sweltering nights carry serious health implications

Experts say hot nights have serious health implications – and are warning the public that more hot nights are on the way.

As South Australians sweltered through the hottest December night since 1897, heat expert Dr Liz Hanna said health professionals were on high alert.

“Usually after a hot day, we are able to cool down and recover at night, but in a situation like we are seeing now in South Australia there is no relief andthat puts the human body under incredible strain.

“Research shows that hot nights exacerbate the urban heat island effect, which limits natural cooling of houses at night time.

“When hot days are followed by hot nights the mean (daily average) temperature is much higher, and we see a greater spike in deaths and ambulance call outs. The human body copes better with a hot day if it is refreshed at night.”

Dr Hanna said rolling black outs throughout South Australia were adding to an already heightened risk to people’s health.

“Power blackouts compound the effects that people experience on a hot night because it prevents people from cooling their household temperature, making sleep and rest difficult.

“If possible, people should seek out a cold place, stay hydrated and seek medical attention as soon as they feel unwell.”

Dr Hanna said the situation was only likely to worsen as the climate kept changing.

The UN’s World Meteorological Organisation predicts 2015 will be the world’s hottest year on record. Last month a key milestone was passed for the first time with the world warming more than one degree since pre-industrial times.

Climate Council research has found hot days are happening more often while heatwaves are becoming hotter, longer and more frequent.

“We can limit the number of deaths from heatwaves if the public and authorities prepare, and recognise that heat kills even the young and fit,” Dr Hanna said.

Media inquiries to Sarah on 0420 892 450 or Dinah on 0425 791 394.