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A man takes shelter from the cold in the mountains of Madrid EP
Spain launches plan to prevent cold-related deaths this winter

Spain launches plan to prevent cold-related deaths this winter

A total of 1,050 died from the cold last year so authorities have issued these recommendations to keep the population safe during the upcoming cool months

Álvaro Soto

Madrid

Friday, 8 December 2023, 12:54

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Spain has launched a plan to protect its population during winter, particularly the elderly, those who suffer from chronic illnesses and people who can't afford heating.

The ministry of health reignited its National Plan of Preventive Actions for Low Temperatures that seeks to reduce the annual cold-related death toll; this amounts to 1,050, slightly lower than the 1,300 deaths caused by heatwaves. Julio Díaz, of the Carlos III Health Institute, said health effects usually appear 14 days after exposure to the cold.

"Mortality is partly related to respiratory diseases of an infectious nature, although there is also an increase in mortality related to cardiovascular diseases," he said.

The plan states that low temperatures can lead to cold stress which can in turn result in organ decompensation that aggravates chronic diseases in vulnerable populations. It warns of the risks linked to people who cannot afford adequate heating.

The cold is also the cause of more traffic accidents and falls due to ice, as well as fires and carbon monoxide poisoning from gas stoves or braziers, it adds.

The plan includes general recommendations for the public:

- In the outdoors it is recommended to breathe through the nose and not through the mouth, since the air warms up as it passes through the nostrils and decreases the cold that reaches the lungs.

- Extreme caution in case of ice on the streets. A high percentage of cold-related injuries are related to falls from slipping on slabs of ice. It is advisable to wear non-slip footwear.

- Several layers of thin clothing protect more than a single thick layer, as they form insulating air chambers between them.

- If braziers are used at home or fireplace, you must ventilate the room frequently to avoid the accumulation of CO2. Ventilate the house at least twice a day, for 15 minutes each time.

- Do not take non-prescribed medication, because some medication can heighten problems resulting from exposure to cold.

- Eat a varied diet, and consume fruit daily. Drink liquids, especially water and warm drinks.

- Always be well informed about weather forecasts before leaving home.

- Flu vaccination is recommended for people over 65 years of age and for those suffering from chronic diseases (cardiopulmonary, metabolic and immunocompromised).

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