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A guide to surviving the heatwave: Smart ways to cool off!

While summer has finally arrived, the first heatwave has just made its appearance. Scientists are highlighting the potential dangers, warning us not to be complacent. For sure, there is no need to panic. Awareness, preventive measures, and prompt action will make the hot summer days a bit easier to handle.

Heatwave: Side effects & vulnerable populations

When the temperature gets extremely high, reaching levels hardly tolerated by the human body (35 degrees Celsius and above), and in synergy with other factors (e.g. humidity), pathological conditions may manifest, leading to severe illness or even death. The initial symptoms warning that the temperature is significantly high boil down to severe headache, weakness, feeling of faintness, drop in blood pressure, nausea, palpitations, and vomiting. Undoubtedly, those most at risk from high temperatures are the elderly, babies and kids, pregnant and breastfeeding women, people who are overweight or obese, those who work or exercise intensively in a hot environment, chronically ill people (e.g. cardiovascular disease), as well as patients with acute illness (e.g. infection with fever).

Heatwave: Survival tips

Heatwaves and hot weather conditions in general can make our days and nights “unbearable”. Yet, there is no need to panic! By taking into account the following tips, we can make it easier to cope with them.

Stay in air-conditioned rooms: If we do not have air conditioning at home, we may choose to spend the hottest hours of the day in a mall, a café, a public library, an open-air cinema, or a shady park. In fact, many cities provide free access to air-conditioned public buildings during the hot days.

Closed windows and curtains during the day: The main goal is to block the sun’s rays from penetrating into the house to prevent excessive heat from building up. Thus, as soon as the temperature starts to rise, we close the windows, and lower the blinds or curtains. The house may become dark, but at least it will remain as cool as possible.

Open windows at night: We take advantage of lower night temperatures by opening the windows as soon as the temperature starts to drop. We open as many windows as possible to create a draft. Undoubtedly, for safety reasons, we close the windows while sleeping at night to open them anew in the morning before the temperature starts to rise again.

Cool sheets: We choose silk, satin, or cotton sheets that remain cool, making it easier to sleep on. If this does not work, we can try another tip: placing a thin exercise mat on the floor and try sleeping on it.

Lots of showers: If we are at home, we can deal with the heat by taking several cool showers during the day. Alternatively, we may place our hands and feet in cold water or apply cool pads (e.g. ice packs) to our head and back of our neck.

Light clothing: Comfortable, light-colored clothes can help our body to stay cool, facilitating also the evaporation of sweat. The use of a hat -made of a material that allows the head to “breathe”- and sunglasses is essential when outdoors.

Hydration from within: When it is hot, our body works hard to maintain its normal temperature by sweating. Sweat elimination, however, carries the risk of dehydration. For this reason, we should drink plenty of water during the day, not just when we feel thirsty. Water is vital, so we must make sure to store as many water bottles as possible in the fridge, always carrying one with us wherever we go. Furthermore, it is important to incorporate more fruit and vegetables into our diet, avoiding heavy, fatty foods.

In general, we should trust on common sense, avoiding unnecessary exposure to the sun (especially for infants, the elderly, vulnerable groups, and pets), heavy physical work, as well as long distances on public transport without air conditioning.

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