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Researchers develop early warning system to protect people from unsuspecting yet fatal risk: 'We can reduce their need for an ambulance'

It actually uses sensors inside and outside the owner's home.

It actually uses sensors inside and outside the owner’s home.

Photo Credit: iStock

Queensland, Australia is heading off expected high temperatures this summer with trials of an in-home warning system for seniors at risk of overheating, ABC News reported.

The world is heating up, with experts warning that the next five years are likely to be the hottest on record. El Niño — a weather pattern that pumps up the heat in much of the world — is combining with the temperature increase caused by heat-trapping air pollution in Earth's atmosphere to make the planet piping hot.

If the temperature gets high enough, it's dangerous for everyone, bringing the risk of heat stroke. As ABC News explained, extreme heat kills more people than any other type of natural disaster in Australia. However, heat stress is especially harmful for those whose health is already delicate, including patients with chronic conditions and seniors.

To help lower that risk, a team of Australian researchers has developed a system called Ethos (Extreme Heat and Older Persons) to warn seniors when the temperature is in a dangerous range, ABC News revealed. This tool doesn't just rely on weather reports. It actually uses sensors inside and outside the owner's home to monitor temperature and humidity, both of which are factors in heat stress.

When the system detects dangerous weather, it sends an alert via a small tablet-like screen. Not only does it warn users about the heat, but it also offers tips for cooling off.

Shannon Rutherford, leader of the Ethos project, told ABC News that the advice would be tailored to each user's circumstances. 

"We won't be asking them to turn their air conditioning on, if they don't have it," she said. "They may not have the ability to use their air conditioning even if they have it because of the increasing energy costs … There's a whole range of things that we can be doing about cooling individuals that are more tailored to their own needs and capacity."

According to ABC News, suggestions from Ethos might include opening a window, moving to a cooler room, or dunking hands and feet in cool water.

Aaron Bach, a human physiologist for the project, said Ethos has two things to protect seniors from: the direct impact of heat-related illnesses and the indirect harm when heat combines with existing health conditions. 

"By doing these two things we can reduce their need for an ambulance and hospital admission," he told ABC News.

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