Heatwave in Spain

Spain is really really hot at the moment. After quite a mild, and uncharacteristically wet Spring, Summer has arrived with a vengeance and already some people have been admitted to hospital in the South suffering heat-related symptoms (see advice on how to survive the heat here).

Five provinces are under yellow alert at the moment – Ciudad Real, Albacete, Almería, Madrid and Seville – the first on the scale of 3 established by the government to cope with problems caused by the heat this Summer (yellow, for the first five days, red for the second five days and green if the heatwave goes on for longer than 10 days). Last Summer the number of deaths rose by 13.000 with respect to the previous Summer, and the Spanish Government wants to avoid similar figures this year with its “Prevention Plan”.

Yesterday the Spanish Health Minister launched the Plan in a press conference.

She said that social and health services of all areas that go into yellow alert will automatically be informed of the situation so that they prepare themselves to receive more patients and emergencies than usual. Areas that go into red alert will alert civil protection forces and in some cases as an extra precaution arrange for people most at risk (elderly sick and and mentally ill people) to be taken to air-conditioned accommodation. The government has signed agreements with the Red Cross, Caritas and the Spanish Federation of Municiples and Provinces so that these organizations can draw up a list of the people most at risk (especially elderly people who live on their own) and take special care of them.

A telephone has been set up to deal with any heat-related affairs, whether they are from people who just want to ask a question, or from someone reporting heat-related illness or death.

The number is 902 22 22 92.

Some obvious precautions.

– Remember to drink much more during the heat, to avoid dehydration.

– Try to avoid going out during the day (between 12.00 and 17.00), take cool showers and keep your home or apartment or hotel room well ventilated.

– Eat lots of fruit and salads. Gazpacho is an ideal starter to a meal when it’s hot. If you don’t know how to make it, here’s an easy gazpacho recipe. This lemon sorbet is very refreshing too.

– If you have got air conditioning – congratulations! But use it with care.

The ideal temperature is about 22º so people shouldn’t be tempted to put the air conditioning on too high. It is especially dangerous to get into a hot car, and turn the air conditioning on at under 20º – the change in temperature might be too much for your body to cope with. A more sensible way of cooling the car down after it has been parked under the hot sun, is to open all the car doors, turn the engine on, and put the airconditioning on at 22º for a few minutes before getting in. You can also use a cardboard sunshade when the car is parked. They can be bought at most big supermarkets and some beachy shops and stop the car from getting so hot.

– Don’t do any sort of strenuous exercise outside. During the Summer the best exercise is swimming in the pool or sea, or walking. Only yesterday someone who was cycling during the hottest time of the day went into a coma and died in Castilla la Mancha.

– Avoid drinking too much alcohol because that dehydrates your body too. Go for cool fruit juices, limón granizado or alcohol-free beer instead. If you do want to enjoy some alcohol with your meal, why not try making sangría (recipe for sangría here), but add more ice than usual, so as to dilute it a bit more.