Duration of heat wave more important than intensity

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Aug. 27, 2007

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Extremely hot weather has to last at least four days to significantly increase the number of elderly people admitted to a hospital, according to a paper published in BMC Public Health.

Researchers from the University of Padova, Italy, analyzed regional hospital data for the summers of 2002 and 2003 and correlated it with several heat waves during this time. Each additional hot day increased by 16% the number of hospital admissions of those older than 74 needing care for heat-related illnesses. Those requiring care for respiratory problems increased by 5%. The weather had no impact on femur fractures or circulatory disease, but four consecutively hot days meant admissions for heat-related illnesses doubled. They went up by 50% for respiratory issues.

The authors suggest that these data will help health systems better predict what resources are needed as temperatures climb. "The first four days of a heat wave had only minor effects, thus supporting a heat health system where alerts are based on the duration of hot humid days," the authors wrote.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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