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CDU EXPERT: It’s getting hot in here – we need to learn to live with it

Charles Darwin University 2 mins read

13 JUNE, 2024

Who: Charles Darwin University heat stress expert Dr Sarah Carter. Dr Carter is a member of the Heat and Health Research Incubator group, and has been part of the team implementing the Australian Open heat stress scales.


  • The impact of heatwaves on the human body, following recent heatwaves in Delhi and Athens.
  • How to manage and adapt to heat stress.
  • Internal and external factors contributing to heat stress.

Contact details: Call +61 8 8946 6721 or email to arrange an interview.

Quotes attributable to Dr Sarah Carter:

"Heatwaves provide significant stress to our systems by way of cardiovascular, renal, and gastrointestinal stress.

“The only way to be resilient in hot weather is to be acclimatised and to initiate behavioural and cooling practices to regulate your body temperature. Being adapted or acclimatised to an environment does require work, but it is highly effective in curving the incidence of heat related illness.

“Staying in the aircon is only a good option for the very vulnerable, where an incidence of heat stress may be fatal, but for most of us it would do serve us better to adapt to the environment that we live in. In scientific terms, this is acclimatisation that I speak of, which just means that your body has developed physical mechanisms to overcome the stress of a hot environment by being exposed to it and increased body temperatures over time. However, in saying this if you are in a cooler climate and experience an intense heatwave, your ability to adapt to that heat will not be possible during a short and intense heatwave, and so it is best to avoid risky situations and keep yourself cool until the heatwave breaks.

“There are many external - physical or structural - factors to considering when we think about heat stress. Proximity to radiant heat sources, such as direct sun exposure or being close to working machinery, poorly ventilated and insulated buildings, reduced green and blue spaces such as parks and open water, and overcrowding. Most of the listed factors are a problem as they increase the local temperature, which means it is harder to find means of cooling the body down.

“Awareness and education are incredibly effective tools against extreme heat. If we know how to cool ourselves, if we understand the dangers heat poses, then we can effectively manage ourselves through hot periods of weather. The most dangerous thing we can do with extreme heat is to not give it the respect it deserves, to underestimate it. Our bodies can only tolerate so much heat strain and so we need to understand our limitations.”

Contact details:

Raphaella Saroukos she/her
Research Communications Officer
Marketing, Media & Communications
Larrakia Country
T: +61 8 8946 6721

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