It’s obvious that Tenerife is hot. It’s why people come here. And yet there are times when it can get too hot, most especially when there’s a calima or scirocco – dust storms from Africa – which bring incredibly hot air to the Canaries causing an “ola de calor”, a heatwave. Most people have positive associations to the word “heatwave” because in a cold or rainy climate it makes a welcome change; when a heatwave comes to somewhat already hot, hovever, it is a different and sometimes dangerous matter, with temperatures able to rise well into the 40ºs, a level which is comfortable and safe for no-one.
These blasts of hot air can sometimes last up to a fortnight, and apart from the dangerously low levels of humidity that they bring, which cause problems particularly for those with respiratory conditions, they carry all sorts of pathogens that can cause their own problems, especially to the eyes and throat. THIS is a useful site from the national Meteorological Office with forecasts of these episodes. And apart from breathing problems, eye infections, sore throats, etc,. such temperatures also bring the risk of simple heat stroke.
The Canarian health authority, Sanidad, says that the symptoms of being heat-affected include fainting or lightheadedness, nausea, and palpitations. Children might become irritable and lose their appetite. Sanidad, and common sense, says that when we get these heatwaves, people – especially the elderly, young, or chronically ill – should take extra care and watch out for any of these sorts of symptoms. At the first sign, people should try to cool themselves immediately, drink water, and if they do not feel better very quickly, seek medical help.
General advice from the authorities to protect from sun and heat is:
- to stay in places shaded from the sun and in the cooler rooms
- to keep the blinds down during sunlight hours
- to open windows overnight to cool dwellings
- to use fans or air conditioning to cool the environment where possible
- to be careful of dramatic temperature variations when changing environments
- to avoid direct sunlight, and if going out is inevitable, wear a cap or a hat, and lightweight, light coloured clothing, and try to walk through shaded areas or with an umbrella for protection, taking breaks in cool places
- to carry water always and sip it frequently
- not to leave children or elderly people – or animals – inside a closed car
- to avoid strenuous activities in the central hours of the day
- to eat light meals and refreshments rich in water and mineral salts, such as fruits and vegetables, which help to replenish salts lost by sweating
- not to drink alcoholic beverages
- to help others, particularly those who might be sick, or old people living alone
- to consult a doctor if taking medication that can influence the body’s ability to regulate temperature
- to call 112 for any information