Temperature Extremes

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:

    • Seek cool environments (preferably air conditioned);
    • Try to keep the heat out of your home: close the blinds or shutters and keep air circulating inside the house; keep the house as cool as possible and avoid using the oven.
    • Drink water or fresh, sugar-free fruit juices and avoid drinking alcohol;
    • Avoid direct exposure to the sun, especially between 11 am and 5 pm.
    • Wear loose (cotton) clothing that keeps most of your body covered, as well as a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses;
    • Wear sunscreen with a protection factor higher than 30 and reapply every two hours.
    • Choose the coolest hours to travel by car.
    • Do not remain inside parked vehicles exposed to the sun and do not leave pets in the car either;
    • Avoid strenuous physical activities;
    • Pay particular attention to those who are more vulnerable to the heat, such as: children; the elderly; the chronically ill; pregnant women; people with reduced mobility; people who work outdoors and isolated
    • Offer water to newborn babies, children, the elderly and the sick, who may not be able to say that they are thirsty;
    • The chronically ill and patients who are being medicated or following specific diets should obey their doctors’ orders;
    • Children under the age of six months should not be exposed to the sun; children under the age of three should not be exposed to direct sunlight and should wear protective clothing and a sunscreen with a protection factor higher than fifty.

More information can be found on the DGS website here:


Heatstroke and Heat Exhaustion - Symptoms and Treatment

Heat stroke

This situation occurs when the individual’s body temperature control system stops working and stops producing sweat in order to cool the body. The body temperature can, in 10-15 minutes, reach 39ºC, causing brain deficiencies or even death if the individual is not helped quickly.


Symptoms include high fever, red, hot, dry, non-sweating skin, rapid, strong pulse, headache, nausea, dizziness, confusion, and partial or complete loss of consciousness. 

What to do?

Immediately call a doctor or call the emergency number 112, following the procedures below until your arrival.

  • Move the individual to a cool place or to an air-conditioned room;
  • Refresh the individual by applying damp towels or spraying his/her body with cold water;
  • Vigorously shake the air around the individual with a towel or with a fan to create an air flow;
  • If the individual is unconscious, do not give liquids.
  • Heat stroke requires immediate medical help as long-term treatment can result in complications in the brain, kidneys and heart.


Heat Exhaustion

It results from the alteration of the hydro-electrolytic metabolism caused by the excessive loss of water and electrolytes by sweating. This situation can be especially serious in elderly people and people with high blood pressure.


Symptoms include severe thirst, heavy sweating, pallor, muscle cramps, tiredness and weakness, headache, nausea and vomiting, and fainting. The body temperature can be normal, below normal, or slightly above normal. A scarcely perceptible and commonly rapid pulse that feels like a fine mobile thread under a palpating finger, changing between weak and rapid, and breathing becomes rapid and shallow.

What to do?

Immediately call the doctor or call the emergency number 112, following the procedures below until your arrival.

  • Move the individual to a cool place or to an air-conditioned room;
  • Refresh the individual by applying damp towels or spraying his/her body with cold water;
  • Lie the individual down and lift his/her legs;
  • Give natural fruit juices without sugar and/or drinks containing electrolytes (sports drinks) if the person is conscious.


Ultra Violet (UV) protection

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

On the Beach

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.

When to travel

  • Travel preferably at less heat or at night;
    When motoring do it for short periods. If you have to make major journeys take water or other non-alcoholic and non-alcoholic liquids in sufficient quantities;
    Protect passengers from sun exposure by covering windows with appropriate screens that will not hinder or impair driving;
  • Never travel with the windows fully closed unless you have air conditioning in your car;
  • If traveling with children keep them as airy as possible, dressing them with the least amount of clothing and giving them often water to drink:
  • If traveling with babies, be aware that milk is your normal meal and that during feeding time you should drink plenty of water;
  • Pay attention to the elderly who travel with you. They should not wear black or synthetic fiber clothing and should also drink a water supplement;
    Eat few amounts at a time and several times a day;
  • Meals should be light, hot or cold soups, salads, grilled, low-fat, low-spiced foods, preferably with water, weak tea or other non-sugary liquids;
  • Do not drink alcohol. In a dehydrated organism they are absorbed quickly and can lead to states of drunkenness more easily.

Prevention against cold weather and snow

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.

  • If driving to (through) an area where there is a snow warning, ensure your vehicle carry snow chains, and listen to weather bulletins. Adopt a defensive driving due to the possibility of ice on the road
  • Avoid being exposed outside to low temperatures for long periods, without adequate protection clothing;
  • Dress in layers of warm clothing, with the outside temperature in mind. Layers of clothing will keep yourself warm and protect you best against low temperatures;
  • Cover all exposed skin: wear a hat, warm mittens and gloves, a scarf and warm socks;
  • Drink warm fluids. Avoid alcohol. Alcohol causes a false sense of heat;
  • Caution: carbon monoxide kills. Particular attention should be paid to combustion heaters (fireplaces) which may cause intoxication due to carbon monoxide accumulation. The primary hazards to avoid when using alternate sources for electricity, heating or cooking are carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock and fire.
  • Help people who require special assistance such as elderly people living alone, people with disabilities and children;

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.


Travelling to mountain areas in cold weather/snow


  • Check the weather forecast;
  • Inform someone about your journey, the route you are taking and your expected arrival time;
  • Take your mobile phone with a charged battery.



  • Give your contact details to the person drawing up the list of people travelling by bus;
  • Memorise the bus number plate and other identification details;
  • Avoid moving away from your group.



  • Check the fuel level, lights and breaks, and make sure you have antifreeze in the radiator;
  • Use snow chains if necessary;
  • Carry a basic first aid kit, warm clothes and provisions;
  • Drive at a speed that is appropriate to the weather conditions and the road;
  • Avoid sudden acceleration and braking, use the engine and watch out for dark areas due to ice formation.



Take appropriate clothing and footwear;

  • Take water, provisions, a torch, a mobile phone with a charged battery and a basic first aid kit;
  • Never go on a walk alone.



  • Keep calm;
  • Look for a reference point;
  • Alert the authorities by calling 112. Inform them about the place where you are and the people who are with you;
  • Keep your mobile phone switched on and available;
  • Stay in the place you indicated;
  • Keep moving to activate blood circulation;
  • Try to stay awake and dry;
  • Wait for the rescue teams, which may take some time.



  • Stay inside the vehicle;
  • Every hour, turn the heating on for about 10 minutes and keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow.



  • Find a mountain shelter and protect yourself from the wind.


All prevention and protection advice is from official sources.