Dealing with the heat in Europe

Imagine yourself lounging on one of the French Riviera’s famous beaches. You see glistening water, hear the waves softly crashing and feel the sun’s rays kissing your skin. As fantastic as this may sound, in reality the sun will beat down and you’ll wish for the slightest breeze to cool you. Perhaps stopping in a café with air conditioning could be your quick salvation from the heat, but finding air conditioning anywhere in Europe is a challenge in itself. Most Europeans do not use air conditioning and are more comfortable with hot weather compared to AC-loving Americans.

Not only can hot weather stifle your vacation enjoyment, it can also cause medical issues that could potentially damage your health if untreated. Those who are most susceptible to heat-related illnesses are people with previous health conditions, children and the elderly. It is important to recognize symptoms of heat-related illnesses to protect yourself and others.

Heat-related illnesses that could spoil your vacation plans:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn travelers to watch out for the following conditions related to extreme heat. If you start to experience any symptoms you suspect may be related to the heat, stop what you’re doing and get the help you need.

  • Heat cramps: Those who are suffering through muscle cramping and spasms should stop movement until the pain dissipates. Resting in a cool setting and drinking water will help calm symptoms.
  • Heat exhaustion: People experiencing heat exhaustion will sweat heavily, and have cold and clammy skin. If you feel faint, weak or are cramping, move to a cool place, loosen your clothing, or take a cool bath. Drinking water is recommended.
  • Heat stroke: Headaches and nausea shouldn’t instantly alarm a traveler, but be aware of dizziness, confusion and a body temperature rising above 103 degrees Fahrenheit. If the person loses consciousness, contact emergency medical services (dial “112” in the European Union, not “911”) while trying to lower the person’s body temperature with damp, cool cloths. In this instance, do not give the person anything to drink.

Now that you know about the symptoms and treatment of heat-related illnesses, it is important to remember how to prevent them.

Tips to ensure a healthy summer European vacation:

  • Hydration: Drink water, and then drink some more water. Regardless of the amount of activity you are doing, hydrating will keep you feeling good. Try to avoid sugary drinks and alcohol because they will dehydrate your body.
  • Pace yourself: Be mindful of not over-exerting yourself on vacation. When planning sightseeing excursions, build in time to relax. Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor can it be toured in a day. Become accustomed to the European schedule in which you eat lunch and dinner later in the day to avoid walking about during peak heat hours.
  • Stay cool: Although air conditioning is not always an option, there are other ways to stay cool. The easiest is by packing smartly. Always bring sunscreen and a hat, as well as lightweight, loose-fitted clothing. Choose breathable fabrics and avoid dark colors. Black clothing may be chic in Europe, but feeling comfortable and loving your vacation is more fashionable.
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