New research shows many Australians can't recognise the warning signs of serious illness

New research from Edith Cowan University has revealed Australian's inability to recognise life-threatening situations is placing unnecessary strain on medical first responders.

Lead Researcher Dr Brennan Mills and his team polled Australians on 17 different scenarios and asked them wether or not it was appropriate to call triple zero in each one.

Dr Mills called the results 'alarming' after only six percent of the 544 people questioned were able to identify the symptoms of meningitis and correctly assert that an ambulance should be called.

37 percent of people did not identify someone showing stroke symptoms as needing an ambulance.

"Even a short delay in getting a suspected stroke victim to hospital could result in brain damage," Dr Mills said.

Natasha Cole, a NSW Ambulance Station Officer at Bourke, NSW, says some manner of uncertainty is to be expected.

"Obviously we understand that when people are ringing for triple zero, they're essentially ringing for help because they don't necessarily have the answers," Ms Cole said.

"We're trying to ensure that people are making the right call and getting the right care."

While the triple zero number is reserved for serious emergencies, staff on the other end of the line can provide patients who are concerned with advice on how to proceed.

Ms Cole also recommended calling Healthdirect on 1800 022 222 in the event that people were unsure about how much danger they were in due to their illness.