Cold snap health warning

Monday, 3 July 2017

South Australians are warned to ‘rug up’ this winter to help protect themselves against pneumonia and hypothermia, as latest data show hospital admissions for these conditions during 2016 were the highest in recent years.

Public hospitals across the state treated more than 7000 people with pneumonia last year, while 52 hypothermia patients were cared for.

SA Health’s Chief Medical Officer Paddy Phillips said with cold temperatures forecast across the state, it’s a timely reminder of the very real and significant health conditions that can strike at this time of year.

“The very old and very young, and those who are frail, are at particular risk of hypothermia, pneumonia, the worsening of chronic disease and flu,” Professor Phillips said.

“Hypothermia occurs when a person’s body temperature drops below 37 degrees Celsius, usually as a result from exposure to cold air, water, wind, or rain.

“Pneumonia can occur any time of the year, but is more common in the winter, secondary to viruses such as influenza.”

Professor Phillips urged people to check on elderly relatives and friends during cold weather.

“Medical conditions such as diabetes, thyroid problems and some medications can all increase the risk of hypothermia,” Professor Phillips said.

“We often hear of people – particularly the elderly – reluctant to use their heating because of the costs involved, but it is important to keep warm in order to stay healthy.

“To help prevent winter health problems such as hypothermia, people should limit time spent outdoors, dress warmly, ensure their home and workplace is adequately heated and wash their hands thoroughly.

“Symptoms to look out for include shivering, dizziness, trouble speaking, confusion, slow or shallow breathing and progressive loss of consciousness.”

If anyone displays symptoms of hypothermia or other serious respiratory conditions, they should immediately call triple zero (000) or attend an Emergency Department.

Inpatients treated for hypothermia and pneumonia in SA public hospitals

  2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 YTD Apr-17
Hypothermia 29 33 28 24 34 44 52 5
Pneumonia 5,075 5,358 5,604 5,106 5,930 6,117 7,010 1,845


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