The WHO European Region is currently experiencing a very hot summer, and this is expected to continue for the next weeks. During the holiday season, this is generally a cause for joy. However, the public, medical professionals and public health authorities need to be prepared for heatwaves and to tackle the possible health consequences of heat exposure.
Every year, high temperatures affect the health of many people, particularly older people, infants, people who work outdoors and those who are chronically ill. Heat can trigger exhaustion or heat stroke, and can make existing conditions such as cardiovascular, respiratory, kidney or mental diseases worse. Yet the adverse health effects of hot weather are largely preventable through good health practices.
During periods of hot weather, it is important to keep cool to avoid the negative health effects of heat.
Keep your home cool. Use the night air to cool down your home, and reduce the heat load inside the apartment or house during the day by using blinds or shutters.
Keep out of the heat. Avoid going out and engaging in strenuous activity during the hottest time of day, stay in the shade, do not leave children or animals in parked vehicles and, if necessary, spend 2–3 hours of the day in a cool place (such as an air-conditioned public building).
Keep your body cool and hydrated. Use light and loose-fitting clothing and bed linen, take cool showers or baths, and drink regularly while avoiding alcohol and caffeine.
While taking care of yourself, plan to check on family, friends and neighbours who spend much of their time alone. Vulnerable people might need assistance on hot days. If anyone you know is at risk, help him or her to get advice and support.
If you or others feel unwell – dizzy, weak, anxious, are intensely thirsty or have a headache – seek help. Move to a cool place as soon as possible and measure your body temperature. Drink water or fruit juice to rehydrate. If you have painful muscular spasms, rest immediately in a cool place, drink oral rehydration solutions containing electrolytes and seek help if the heat cramps last more than an hour.
Consult your doctor if you feel unusual symptoms or if symptoms persist. If someone has hot, dry skin and delirium, is experiencing convulsions, or is unconscious, call a doctor or an ambulance immediately.