It is important to know how to cope in the heat. / sur

How to prevent heatstroke… and what to do if someone suffers one

The temperature is over 40C in many places in Spain at present, and children, elderly people and those who are chronically ill need to be very careful

MARTA FERNÁNDEZ VALLEJO Madrid

The intense heatwave in Spain at the moment, with temperatures over 40C in many places, has led experts to issue warnings of the dangers and how to cope with this type of weather.

Those at risk need to be especially careful, such as elderly people, children and anyone with chronic illness, as well as people whose jobs involve physical work outdoors. Here is their advice.

Drink water even if not thirsty

The body loses water through perspiring to reduce its temperature, so we need to compensate by drinking more, even if we’re not thirsty. We should also avoid drinks with caffeine, fizzy drinks, sweetened juices and alcohol because they have a dehydrating effect. Many elderly people never feel thirsty, so make a point of offering them water regularly.

Vegetables and fruits help to regulate the temperature, so this is an ideal time of year for salads and gazpacho. However, big meals and fatty foods should be avoided because digesting them raises the body temperature.

Stay indoors

Avoid going out at the hottest times of day, at least between midday and 5pm. Cool the rooms of the house at night, and close the windows and blinds during the day when it is hot. Unplug any electric appliances that aren’t in use.

Lightweight, pale-coloured clothes are best, with a hat or cap and sunglasses outside. Also, doctors say we should take as little exercise as possible when it is hot.

Signs of heatstroke

A heatstroke is when several organs fail due to an increase in body temperature. If this reaches 40C for a continued amount of time, there is a risk of not being able to reduce it. Perspiration, which normally helps to regulate body temperature, doesn’t occur in this situation.

Symptoms of heatstroke include dizziness, a redness to the skin and a drop in blood pressure, so someone suffering from it may faint. In addition to a headache and dizziness, heatstroke can cause confusion, disorientation, difficulty speaking, thirst, nausea, cramps, a fast pulse and even a loss of consciousness. In the case of children, especially very young ones, they may be listless or even seem to be asleep

What to do

A rapid response is essential. Lie the person somewhere cool with their legs raised, and use wet cloths to dampen them down or put them in the bath. You can also place bags of ice or something out of the freezer near their neck or under their arm. As long as they are fully conscious, give them water to drink, but not otherwise as they could choke. The water can be cool but not too cold, to avoid stomach cramps. And, if someone has severe symptoms of heatstroke, call the emergency services on 112 in Spain.