Preventive measures for high temperatures and heat waves
The last two years have seen higher than usual temperatures across the country and in many areas records have been broken with temperatures in excess of 40C. Care has to be taken in such heat to avoid dehydration or even worse. The Director General of Health has issued the following guidelines to help avoid health issues during high temperatures and heatwaves as follows:
To protect yourself from the harmful effects that intense heat may have on your health, you should stay abreast of the news and keep yourself hydrated and cool. The DGS recommends:
Solar radiation is an important natural factor of the Earth’s climate significantly influencing the environment. The ultraviolet part of the solar spectrum (UV) plays a decisive role in many processes in the biosphere, having many beneficial effects, however can cause serious damage to health if the UV level exceeds the limits of “security.” UV levels in Portugal are measured from 1 – 11+, the latter being the highest. It is important to regularly check UV levels in your area if you are planning outdoor activities. The levels are monitored by the IPMA and can be checked by referring to the tab on the right of this page, together with the level of protection recommended.
The UV average for Portugal between the months of October and April range from levels 3 and 6, i.e. Moderate with the possibility of High at times, increasing from 9 to 10 between May and September, which corresponds to Very High.
The best protection for the skin is the use of appropriate clothing (sweater, pants, hat). Skin areas not covered by clothing should be protected with a sunscreen containing UVA and UVB filters. During the first exposures to the sun it is recommended to use a Sun Protection Factor (SPF or SPF) of around 30.
There should be special care for babies and children. It is important to note that the effect of the sunscreen depends not only on its quality but also on its correct application. The sunscreen should be applied according to the manufacturer’s instructions. A sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 should be applied generously every 2 hours to have a protective effect. It should also be applied before exposure to the sun as well as after swimming in the sea or pool. If sunscreens are used correctly they can provide protection against erythema, cancer and photoaging.
Sunscreens attenuate the transmission of UV radiation on the skin. The sun protection factor (presented by the sunscreens available on the market) is determined based on the ratio between the amounts of UV radiation necessary for sunburn to occur, with sunscreen and without sunscreen. It is important to know that this protective effect does not increase linearly with the SPF. For example, an SPF of 10 reduces UVB radiation by about 90%, an SPF of 20 by about 95% and an SPF of 30 will further reduce just a little more.
Check the daily UV level map for Portugal – Download here
Check the UV level by area for Portugal – Download here
Check the UV level map for Madeira – Download here
Go to the beach only in the early morning hours (until 11 o’clock) or in the late afternoon (after 5 o’clock). Stay in the shade, wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. Prolonged sun exposure leads to skin burns that alone increase fluid loss.
Exposure to intense cold, especially for several consecutive days, can have negative health effects. Extreme cold situations can result in changes in the body that facilitate the emergence of diseases such as influenza and other respiratory infections, and worsening of chronic diseases, including cardiac and respiratory.
During the winter, their is a greater tendency for people to gather together indoors, which may contribute to the spread of some infectious diseases. Indirectly, the cold can also cause road accidents, falls due to ice, fire and carbon monoxide poisoning caused by improper use or malfunction of fireplaces or other heating systems.
Please call or visit vulnerable family, friends and neighbours, especially isolated seniors to make sure they are alright. Other groups at risk include people with pre-existing heart conditions or chronic respiratory illness, infants and young children, people on certain medications, people who work or do physical activities outside for extended periods, and those who are marginally housed or homeless;
The Serra da Estrela is the main snow resort in Portugal. If you are visiting, please check for snow alerts and weather so that you can prepare accordingly. A number of people encounter difficulties in the area each year, many of which can be avoided through more thorough preparation.
All prevention and protection advice is from official sources.