Europe heatwave: How to beat the heat?

At temperatures above 30ºC, Europe is experiencing its first heatwave of the year. High temperatures not only cause a decline in well-being but also pose a threat to life. However, there are many ways to keep you cool, even if it feels like a sweltering hot day will squeeze all sweat out of your body.

James Day | Unsplash

Heat bothers us less than hurricanes, floods, wildfires, or earthquakes, probably only because there is nothing violent in the wave of high temperatures. Although few of us know it, heat is one of the most deadly weather phenomena for humans and animals. The studies estimated that from 1998 to 2017, extreme temperatures were third only to earthquakes and storms in terms of fatalities, killing 166,346 people.

The heatwaves become even more dangerous as a result of climate change. As reported by the European Environment Agency (EEA), Europe is warming faster than the worldwide average. The European lands will be 1.5ºC hotter than the pre-industrial level by 2025. What will the world look like at 1.5ºC of warming? Extreme temperatures, increase in frequency, intensity, and amount of heavy rainfalls, sea-level changes, increase in intensity or frequency of droughts, biodiversity loss, and a breakdown in the functioning of the ecosystems are some of the consequences of 1.5ºC of global warming. Farming and fishing communities will be hit hardest by these changes, especially in the poorest countries, the Arctic, drylands, and islands. Implementing adaptation and mitigation options might slow down the risk of extreme temperatures and reduce the severity of some other temperature-related issues. However, global warming and extreme temperatures are unavoidable. 

With the temperature rising, heat can become unbearable. Your body can constantly strive for internal balance and ways to stay cool. You can feel dehydrated and low on energy.

How can you beat the heat? Check these nine tips that can help you prevent heat-related problems:
• Stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids every day. Try to avoid alcohol and too much caffeine. Make water your drink of choice.
• Keep your diet full of water-rich foods. Avoid hot and heavy meals that require more effort to digest.
• Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, natural clothing.
• Try to keep your home and workplace cool: use fans, blinds, or shutters, turn off as many electrical devices as possible.
• Avoid exercise or strenuous physical activity outside.
• Rest frequently and seek shade when possible. 
• Protect yourself from the sun. Use sunscreen and decrease the risk of skin cancers and skin precancers.
• Take care of your family members and friends.
• Stay informed. Check weather forecasts and warnings.

If you or people around you experience symptoms of overheating, such as fast heart rate or breathing, muscle cramps, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, or heavy sweating, seek help by calling the emergency number.

Jolanta Ciopcińska

IPCC: Global warming of 1.5 ºC
UNDRR: Economic Losses, Poverty & Distasters
WHO: Heat and health in the WHO European Region: updated evidence for effective prevention

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