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Stay cool in Summer!

Heat is serious and can even kill.

As I caught the train home from work I was aware of a few British, possibly tourists, struggling with the heat, complaining and flapping themselves with their hands/ books in a desperate way to cool down. I thought of myself in the first year of living in Spain dodging between shade and shadows, nipping into air-conditioned buildings and how we did anything to escape it. A Catalan friend of mine recently laughed at the news about this year’s heat wave and offered advice to “sit in a pool and sip cool beers” which made me laugh but really isn’t the best advice to receive! So what is the best advice and how seriously should we take the heat?

Heat is serious and can even kill. In one European country, in August 2003, unprecedentedly high day- and night-time temperatures over a period of three weeks caused 15,000 excess deaths. Heat may affect us all but is dangerous for certain groups; the very old, the very young, people with some chronic illness and some people with disabilities. People who do sport, people who work outside and often holiday makers (they are not acclimatized and many sit too long in the sun) can also be at risk.

It is important during hot weather to looking after yourself and others during hot weather and support vulnerable people before and during a heat wave. Governments and public bodies take Heat seriously and there are heat wave plans and guidelines and available and implemented in many situations.

So what can you do?


Stay inside! Go to work, the theatre, art galleries, or be at home (wherever there is air conditioning). A British paper recently advocated hanging out in the fridge food section of supermarkets! A Spanish paper recommended taking the bus or metro (although the metro stations in Barcelona are like a furnace if you need to wait in one!) Basically avoid the heat and direct sunlight, especially between the hours of 10-4pm.

Drink plenty of cold, non alcoholic or caffeinated drinks, water is really the best or drinks that will replenish electrolytes (Granizados or Horchata are popular as the Spain heat soars) Avoid hot drinks as they don’t help drop your core body temperature and caffeine dehydrates.

Eat smaller portions of light food (no joke Gazpacho and Ajoblanco are wonderful at this time of year).

Buy a hand fan (those older Spanish ladies are pretty wise and the conduction process really does help cool you down) or sit by an electric one if you are at home.

Wear cool light free flowing cotton clothing (it’s the time for thin linen! But remember anything thin may offer little or no sun protection if you are outside).

Stop rushing and running around! Chill out!... when us Northerners don’t understand the slower pace of the Med or Africa- there is a reason.. Rushing just makes things worse in the heat. The siesta was there for a reason- why else would it be in the hottest part of the day?

You can also head to a shady park, find one of those lovely “terrace spritzers” which pulse out cool sprays of water- a reason my son and I went to the park in Barcelona zoo repeatedly for years! Find a breeze, a shaded roof top bar, a bar by the sea. Cooling your feet or dancing in a fountain was a recent solution in Cordoba! An outside pool is a great idea but don’t forget to apply the sun cream (UVA and UVB type is important) wear a rash/surf vest and a quality UV protected pair of sunglasses or goggles (I don’t think I have ever seen an outside pool with shade). Heading to the hills at the weekend seems a good plan, as the temperatures and humidity drop and the climate is easier, but watch out for the long traffic queues there and back at peak times (oh and leave the cool vintage car at home- driving without aircon in queues is a disaster!).

Finally in a heat wave don’t forget to be a good neighbour and look out for any vulnerable friends or neighbours, and also last but not least, don’t forget your pets! Dogs, cats, caged animals and birds need special protection and care during this time too.

For more information go to:

For those with complex health care needs, general advice: and more importantly Speak to your health care providers.

For pets:

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