South Australians are being asked to keep an eye on their elderly relatives and friends as much of the state prepares to shiver through its coldest day in a year tomorrow. SA Health Chief Medical Officer Professor Paddy Phillips said the biggest health risks to people during very cold weather are hypothermia, the worsening of chronic disease and flu. “With temperatures set to plummet across the state, hypothermia can be a very real and significant health problem for older members of our community,” Professor Phillips said.
“The very old and very young, and those who are frail are at particular risk.
“Some people may have a reluctance to use heaters because of the cost, but it’s important that they consider their health during times of extreme cold.
“Medical conditions such as diabetes, thyroid problems and some medications can all increase the risk of hypothermia.
“We are asking South Australians to check in on their older family members and friends throughout the cold weather.
“Anyone displaying symptoms of hypothermia or serious respiratory conditions should call triple zero (000) or attend an Emergency Department immediately.”
Hypothermia occurs when the body’s temperature falls below 35 degrees Celsius due to exposure to cold conditions.
Symptoms include shivering, dizziness, trouble speaking, confusion, slow or shallow breathing and progressive loss of consciousness.
Professor Phillips said the very cold weather is also arriving at a time when South Australia is experiencing one of its worst starts to the flu season.
“So far this year we have seen almost triple the number of flu cases compared to the same time last year,” he said.
“Cooler air and lower humidity all help to promote the spread of the influenza virus, so we can expect to see even more cases over the next few weeks as temperatures drop.
“Our state has already recorded 2,770 cases of flu for the year compared to 1,011 for the same time in 2014, which ended up being the worst flu season on record.
“The best thing that anyone can do to stay well and protect friends and family is to get a flu vaccination every year.”