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More than 1 000 heat-related deaths reported in Spain and Portugal

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The second heatwave to hit Europe since mid-June 2022 has claimed more than 1 000 lives over the past 8 days, with most of them in Portugal. Numerous high temperature records have been broken and more are expected to fall over the next few days.

According to Spanish Government’s Carlos III Health Insitute (ISCIII), 360 heat-related deaths were reported from Sunday, July 10 to Friday, July 15, 2022.

ISCIII recorded 15 deaths due to high temperatures on July 10, followed by 28 on July 11, 41 on July 12, 60 on July 13, 93 on July 14 when temperatures reached 45 °C (113 °F), and 123 on July 15.

This follows 830 heat-related deaths last month in the first heatwave of the season.

Portugal’s Health Ministry recorded 659 heat-related deaths from July 9 to 16, with the peak of 440 deaths reported on July 14 when temperatures exceeded 40 °C (104 °F) in several regions and reached 47 °C (116.6 °F) in Pinhão.

If confirmed, this will set the new national July high temperature record for the month of July. The current record is 46.5 °C (115.7 °F) set in Amarelaja in 1995.

According to Portugal’s national meteorological institute, some 96% of the mainland was under severe or extreme drought conditions at the end of June.

Similar temperatures have been observed in France over the past couple of days but the worst is yet to come.

The heat has now spread NE toward Ireland and UK, where first ever Red Extreme heat warning was issued for July 18 and 19, covering parts of central, northern, eastern and southeastern England.2

An Amber Extreme heat warning is also in place for much of England and Wales and southern Scotland until the end of July 19.

Meanwhile, wildfires are raging across southern Europe, destroying homes and forcing tens of thousands to evacuate.

Heat exhaustion is not usually serious if you can cool down within 30 minutes, according to UK’s NHS. If it turns into heatstroke, it needs to be treated as an emergency.3

Check for signs of heat exhaustion

The signs of heat exhaustion include:

  • a headache
  • dizziness and confusion
  • loss of appetite and feeling sick
  • excessive sweating and pale, clammy skin
  • cramps in the arms, legs and stomach
  • fast breathing or pulse
  • a high temperature of 38C or above
  • being very thirsty

The symptoms are often the same in adults and children, although children may become floppy and sleepy.

If someone is showing signs of heat exhaustion, they need to be cooled down.

Things you can do to cool someone down

If someone has heat exhaustion, follow these 4 steps:

  1. Move them to a cool place.
  2. Get them to lie down and raise their feet slightly.
  3. Get them to drink plenty of water. Sports or rehydration drinks are OK.
  4. Cool their skin – spray or sponge them with cool water and fan them. Cold packs around the armpits or neck are good, too.

Stay with them until they’re better.

They should start to cool down and feel better within 30 minutes.

Preventing heat exhaustion and heatstroke

There’s a high risk of heat exhaustion or heatstroke during hot weather or exercise.

To help prevent heat exhaustion or heatstroke:

  • drink plenty of cold drinks, especially when exercising
  • take cool baths or showers
  • wear light-coloured, loose clothing
  • sprinkle water over skin or clothes
  • avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm
  • avoid excess alcohol
  • avoid extreme exercise

This will also prevent dehydration and help your body keep itself cool.

Keep an eye on children, the elderly and people with long-term health conditions (like diabetes or heart problems) because they’re more at risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

References:

1 La ola de calor deja 360 muertes en España entre el 10 y el 15 de julio – El Pais – July 16, 2022

2 United Kingdom issues first Red Extreme heat warning – The Watchers – July 15, 2022

3 Heat exhaustion and heatstroke – NHS – Accessed July 18, 2022

Featured image credit: GFS, TropicalTidbits

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