April 17, 2024

Is It Safe to Travel During the European Heatwave? Here’s What to Know

Southern Europe is baking, due to a relentless heat wave with record breaking temperatures across Italy, Spain and Greece. This extreme weather, combined with one of the busiest tourist seasons in recent years, poses questions for travelers who want to enjoy their holidays while staying safe. Here’s what you need to know if you’re going to Europe in the next few days, or if you’re already there.

Italy, Spain and Greece are the countries most affected by a high-pressure “anti-cyclone”, which came from North Africa, and is causing the heat on record. Temperatures as high as 118 degrees Fahrenheit (close to 48 degrees Celsius) are possible later this week in Sicily and Sardinia; Highs were 115 degrees in north-east Spain this week, while parts of central Greece reached 109 degrees. The hot and dry conditions also exacerbated wildfires in Greece, Croatia, Switzerland and Spain’s Canary Islands, forcing thousands to evacuate.

Forecasts show the heat wave lasting at least another week, through the end of July. However, this particular anticyclone – named Charon, for the ferryman of the dead in Greek mythology – is closely followed by another high pressure system from the Sahara. (That one was called Cerberus, after the three-headed dog that watches over the underworld.)

In general, European cities are ill-equipped to deal with extreme, continuous heat. Many have ancient architecture, especially in areas that are attractive to tourists, and fewer buildings overall are equipped with air conditioning. According to s 2018 study, only one in 10 European households has air conditioning, compared to 90 percent in the United States. Several European countries have passed laws severely limited install an air conditioner.

While some cities, like Paris, are working to plant more trees and establish public cooling centers, experts say these efforts are short-lived. A report published last week in the journal Nature Medicine regarding 61,000 extra deaths across the continent for last year’s heat waves; a worker in Northern Italy collapsed and died from exposure last week.

Safety is largely an individual matter, depending on your age, underlying illnesses and physical conditions. Regardless, extreme heat comes with set risks. You can and should take steps to mitigate your risk.

Dr. Myhanh Nguyen, department chair of travel medicine clinics for the Sutter Health Palo Alto Medical Foundation, advise travelers to know their medical history and any pre-existing conditions or medications that may lead to increased heat sensitivity; she noted that infants and the elderly are very sensitive.

Talk to your doctor, or a doctor at a travel health clinic, before your trip about any precautions. Then when you travel, think about your clothes, arrangements and daily activities.

“It’s important for everyone to reduce the risk of heat-related illness through protective behaviors,” said Claudia Brown, a health scientist with the Centers for Disease Control’s Climate and Health Program at the National Center for Environmental Health. As for how to reduce that risk, Ms Brown said the most effective method is to find an air-conditioned environment, when available.

“Beyond air conditioning, limit your outdoor activity, especially mid-afternoon, the hottest part of the day, and avoid direct sunlight,” suggested Ms Brown. “Wear loose, light clothing, stay hydrated and take cold showers or baths to lower your body temperature.”

Dr. Nguyen added that staying hydrated is key.

“It’s important not only to hydrate orally, but also to have an external source of water, such as a water fountain or swimming pool.” Dr. suggested Nguyen also to pay close attention to official announcements or warning systems of any kind, and to avoid densely crowded attractions and seek shaded or wooded areas.

Be careful about it the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat strokeand be sure to wear plenty of sunscreen.

Currently, most travel insurance policies do not have specific clauses covering extreme heat, according to Beth Godlin, president of Conradh na Gaeilge. Any Affinity Travel Practicetravel insurance provider.

“Cancel for any reason policies will allow you to cancel based on weather, as do newer policies that allow you to cancel your trip for any reason,” she said. But other than that, don’t rely on your travel insurance to cover heat. The policies may cover emergency care for heat-related illness, such as heat stroke or dehydration, but even then, the coverage is for the resulting illness, as opposed to the heat itself.

“Travel insurance policies have evolved, and this may become something that is covered in the next few years,” Ms Godlin said. “It’s not exactly an established phenomenon.”

In general, the congested conditions of Europe this summer do not leave much room for changes or cancellations at the last minute which will be refunded, explained Joyce Falcone, president of Conradh na Gaeilge. the Italian Conciergetravel agency based in New Jersey that specializes in tours and excursions in Italy.

Ms Falcone mentioned that many of her clients were hoping to stay on the Italian coast instead of traveling to steamy cities. But travelers who cancel trips, drivers, hotels and others at the last minute should not expect refunds.

“Scheduled vendors are very strict and don’t have a lot of flexibility,” Ms. Falcone said. “They’re trying to make a living, and they have a limited amount of time to do so.”

“They go to the beach!” says Ms. Falcone. “They’re like New Yorkers who abandon the city and go to the Jersey Shore or the Hamptons.”

Although not all Europeans are able to escape from the city for the beach, many people drop for the country to relatives’ houses to escape from the oppressive concrete of urban environments.

So you’re stuck in the city. Try to limit your hiking to early morning hours, before 10 am, or after sunset. Plan on a Spanish-style siesta during the hottest parts of the day. Underground tourist attractions, like the catacombs in Romeor the Civil War era tunnels in Barcelona, ​​there are cooler alternatives to explore. Look into the movies, which tend to be air-conditioned. And while it may be too late this year, consider visiting the mountains in the summer months or, better yet, avoid summer travel altogether.

“Off-season travel is the way to go,” Mr. Falcone said. “There are less crowds, and cooler weather. Take this opportunity to consider November, December, January or February. Italy is wonderful at that time of year.”

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