By Humphrey Carter
MAJORCA was yesterday placed on level one heat alert with maximum temperatures forecast to reach 36ºC and the heat wave is not going to ease until the weekend, according to met. office sources.
After one of the wettest and coolest Junes on record, July has got off to one of its hottest starts for 30 years with temperatures at least 2ºC above average with farmers claiming that this year, we are going to have a long and hot summer lasting well into October and possibly longer.
The key areas yesterday were the Sierra de Tramontana and the south of the island, that is where temperatures were expected to reach between 34ºC and 36ºC.
However, the rest of island is not going to escape the heat wave.
The Balearic Emergency Centre said that its units are all on stand by in the event of people being over come by the heat and the forest fire departments are all on red alert and keeping a very close eye on the situation. The general public are being asked to cooperate in the prevention of forest fires and report any suspicious sightings to the local authorities.
However, the Emergency centre said that the current conditions are not serious and should not pose any health risks.
Nevertheless, the general public is being advised to use common sense and follow the typical guidelines.
Try and keep out of the sun during the peak periods of the day, drink a glass of water every 15 to 20 minutes, wear light clothes and, if working outsides, wear a hat.
Yesterday, the Spanish Society of GP's also issued a public warning with many parts of the country on weather alert, some for temperatures forecast to exceed 45ºC.
TIREDNESS AND CRAMPS
Apart from drinking plenty of liquid, doctors also recommend avoiding heavy, fatty foods and opt for salads, fruit and vegetables which are rich in mineral salts instead.
One of the biggest dangers of a heat wave is the increased risk of dehydration.
This is the loss of water from the body, and with it important blood salts like potassium and sodium which play a vital role in the function of organs such as the kidneys, brain and heart.
It can lead to confusion, lethargy and problems with breathing and heart rate.
During the day, the advice is to keep windows closed and the blinds down in order to protect properties from getting too hot and open the windows and blinds during the night when temperatures have cooled.
Some of the factors to watch out for are sudden bouts of tiredness or muscle cramps caused by the heat.
In the event of this happening, doctors recommend stopping what ever activity you are carrying out, rest and drink a fruit juice if possible.
But, if the tiredness has not passed after a period of two hours, doctors suggest either consulting the local doctor or going to hospital.
The main sectors of society most at risk to the heat are the very young, the elderly and infirm. “High humidity and the lack of any breeze could make matters worse for people with underlying health problems,” doctors said yesterday advising that interior temperatures should be kept below 28ºC.
Most of the extra illness and death seen during a heat wave is caused by respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
It can also cause rashes, fluid retention, and dizziness and fainting.
Heatstroke is the most dangerous condition, where the body can no longer control its temperature, and people become confused, disorientated, have fits, and fall unconscious.
Left untreated, it can lead to organ failure and brain damage.
Forecasters say the hot night time temperatures, high humidity and lack of a breeze could complicate things for the infirm.
For the best part of the next week, minimum temperatures in Majorca are not expected to drop below 19ºC and 21ºC and there will be only very light breezes.
The other warning is about sun burn.
A sun tan may look nice when you get back to the office, but it is actually a sign of damage to the skin.
Not only is sunburn painful, it can accelerate the aging process, and increase the risk of skin cancer, including the potentially fatal form, melanoma.
So, use common sense, as the experts are recommending.