Summer is at its peak and temperatures over 40º are breaking records in countries like Spain, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Germany and Holland. Even in the usually cold Finland, people are sweating fat drops in these days: mercury is reaching exceptionally high values, with the discomforts that entails.
Across Europe, authorities have launched campaigns with alerts and tips on how to cope with the heat wave. And Finland, with temperatures that have exceeded 30 degrees at some cities, has also added its voice. "The weather in Finland is currently exceptionally hot", begins the press release of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health that warns about the risks of heat.
According to the Governmental release, older people and persons with long-term illnesses are "particularly vulnerable to adverse effects of heatwaves". The reason is that with the age, the ability of the body to regulate its own temperature weakens, therefore the risk of dehydration increases. "People aged over 65 are the most vulnerable risk group", says the press release.
Heart and respiratory diseases
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health also reminds that, according to research results, hot weather increases deaths from heart diseases and diseases of the respiratory system. "If the temperature climbs to over the optimal level (24º Celsius), mortality can increase by 2-4% per each degree of temperature", the Government says.
According to preliminary register data, last summer the extended heat wave caused around 380 premature deaths, especially among elder people. This information is based on an assessment by researchers at the National Institute for Health and Welfare (Terveyden ja Hyvinvoinnin Laitos).
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health also reminds employees working in services for older people or in institutional care, that clients’ and patients’ well being must be secured during heatwaves.
"Systematic approach and foresight are important: making contact with home care clients, organising more day activities for older people and, when necessary, arranging cooler premises open for all", they recommend.
Virpi Kollanus, researcher at the National Institute for Health and Welfare, remarked that "people with a long-term illness are also advised to discuss with their doctor the potential effects of heat on their illness or medication used for treating it already before the start of the warm season”.
This expert also stressed that during prolonged hot weather, each one of us could also consider whether to help a loved one whose reduced functional ability may make it difficult for them to prepare for the hazards caused by a heat wave.
Prepare your home for hot weather
The National Institute for Health and Welfare remarks the importance of keeping living spaces cool during a heatwave. It is worth considering the measures that can be taken to cool down the dwelling before the weather gets hot. Here are some of the tips provided at the Institute's website:
- Cover sun-facing windows to prevent the sun from shining indoors during the day helps lowering indoor temperatures at home. Windows should only be open at evenings or nights, once the outdoor air has cooled.
- Fans also provide relief if the indoor air is below 35 degrees. However, if the temperature gets above this limit, a fan will do more harm than good, as it adds to the heat load of the body.
- If a house gets hot very easily, those belonging to risk groups should consider installing a portable cooling unit or air source heat pump.
If you want to read the recommendations of the European office of the World Health Organization (WHO) for heat waves, click HERE