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: 

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

All prevention and protection advice is from official sources.

Resource Centre Downloads

  • Children in Hot Cars - HyperthermiaDownload
  • Heatwave protection - Ondascalor aut ANPC (In Portuguese-pdfDownload
  • intense cold protection - Frio aut - ANPC (In Portuguese-pdfDownload