How to travel safely during a heatwave 

Summer Heat Travel Safety

How to travel safely during a heatwave 

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As summer approaches, many travellers eagerly anticipate their holidays around the country and overseas, but the rising temperatures can pose significant risks. With extreme and prolonged heat waves forecast across various parts of the world, it’s essential to prepare adequately to protect yourself and your loved ones. This guide provides practical advice for everyday travellers to stay safe and enjoy their trips even during the hottest days.

Checking travel Advisories and Government Guidance

Before embarking on your trip, especially if a heat wave has been forecast at your destination, check government websites for travel advisories. These advisories often provide essential information on current weather conditions, health and safety protocols, and emergency response plans.

Adjusting Your Schedule and Activities

Avoiding peak sun hours is crucial. Plan your sightseeing and outdoor activities for the cooler early morning or late evening hours. This adjustment not only helps you stay comfortable but also reduces the risk of heat exhaustion. If you’re planning a trek or any strenuous activity, do it early in the morning and always stick to official trails. Consider taking a midday break, following the European tradition of a siesta, to rest and avoid the hottest part of the day.

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Staying Hydrated and Healthy

Dehydration and heatstroke are common during heat waves. Always carry a water bottle and refill it regularly. Eating foods with high water content, like melons, cucumbers, and celery, can help maintain hydration. While it may be tempting to enjoy a cold beer or cocktail, remember that alcohol can lead to dehydration. Stick to water or isotonic sports drinks to replenish lost salts and sugars.

Dressing for the Heat

Wear lightweight, loose-fitting, and light-coloured clothing to reflect heat and sunlight. Hats and sunscreen are essential to protect your face and scalp from harmful UV rays. When packing, include layers to be prepared for both hot and cooler weather. Heat waves can sometimes bring sudden weather changes, so having a variety of clothing options is wise.

Booking Flexible and Comfortable Accommodations

Choose accommodation with air conditioning and flexible booking options. In regions where air conditioning isn’t common, check reviews and photos to ensure your room has effective cooling solutions. Consider purchasing travel insurance that covers weather-related cancellations to give you the flexibility to reschedule if the heat becomes unbearable.

Keeping Cool While Traveling

When traveling by car, keep the windows slightly open to allow air circulation but ensure valuables are not left in plain sight to prevent theft. On planes, opt for seats with overhead air vents if available. Carry a portable fan and a mini-spritz bottle filled with water to cool yourself down during flights or long journeys. For road trips, consider packing a small desk fan to use in hotel rooms.

Sun Safety: Sunscreen and Sunglasses

Protecting your skin from the sun is crucial. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, which blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Reapply every two hours, especially if you’re sweating or swimming. For sunglasses, ensure they block 100% of UV rays. Beware of purchasing sunglasses abroad, particularly in markets where regulations may not be strongly enforced. Often these glasses use tinted glass that doesn’t offer UV protection, which can cause more harm by dilating your pupils and allowing more UV light into your eyes.

Staying Safe in the Car

Never leave children, pets, or valuables in a parked car, even with the windows open. The interior temperature can rise rapidly, leading to dangerous conditions. When driving, use sunshades on windows and park in shaded areas whenever possible. Keep a cooler with ice packs and cold drinks to stay hydrated during your journey.

Swimming Precautions

Swimming can be a great way to cool down, but it also comes with risks. Prolonged exposure to the sun while swimming can lead to dehydration and sunburn without realising it. Always apply waterproof sunscreen before swimming and reapply as needed. Stay hydrated by drinking water regularly and taking breaks in the shade to prevent over-exertion.

Recognising and Responding to Heat-Related Illnesses

Understanding the symptoms of heat-related illnesses is vital. Heat exhaustion symptoms include heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, nausea, and headache. If someone shows these signs, move them to a cooler place, provide water, and cool their body with wet clothes. Heatstroke is more severe and requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms include confusion, high body temperature, and loss of consciousness. Call emergency services if you suspect heatstroke and try to cool the person down rapidly.

Keeping Your Home Cool

At home, keep blinds and curtains closed during the day to block out the sun. Use fans and air conditioning if available, and consider investing in a portable air conditioner for particularly hot days. At night, open windows to let in cooler air, but ensure safety measures are in place to prevent break-ins. Avoid using heat-generating appliances like ovens during the hottest parts of the day.

Hidden Dangers of Hot Weather

When the weather heats up, most of us think about sunburn, dehydration, and staying cool. However, hot weather brings a range of other dangers that are often overlooked, particularly in regions unaccustomed to extreme heat. Here are some of the less obvious risks to be aware of during a heatwave.

Strained Emergency Services

During heatwaves, emergency services can become overwhelmed with a sudden influx of heat-related incidents. This is particularly true in countries like the UK and parts of Europe, where extreme heat is not common, and infrastructure may not be fully equipped to handle the surge. Hospitals can be inundated with cases of heat exhaustion, dehydration, heatstroke and other related incidents such as barbeque burns, stretching resources thin and potentially delaying response times for other emergencies.

Increased Traffic Congestion

Hot weather often drives people to popular outdoor spots, leading to increased traffic congestion. Tourist attractions, beaches, and parks can become heavily trafficked, causing delays and creating challenging conditions for motorists and pedestrians. This congestion also poses difficulties for emergency vehicles, which may find it harder to navigate through crowded areas to reach those in need quickly.

Large Crowds and Increased Theft

The appeal of sunny days brings everyone outdoors, resulting in large crowds at beaches, parks, and public spaces. These crowds can present various challenges, including an increased risk of theft. Petty criminals may take advantage of the crowded conditions, so it’s essential to stay vigilant, keep an eye on your belongings, and avoid leaving valuables unattended.

Heat-Induced Health Issues

While sunburn and dehydration are common concerns, the heat can also exacerbate other health conditions. People with chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular or respiratory diseases may experience worsened symptoms. Additionally, the elderly and very young children are particularly vulnerable to heat stress and related complications.

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Public Transport Delays

Heatwaves can disrupt public transport systems. Train tracks can warp, causing delays and cancellations, while buses and trams may struggle with increased passenger loads. It’s wise to check transport schedules in advance and allow extra time for travel during extreme heat.

Strain on Utilities

High temperatures can lead to increased demand for electricity as people crank up air conditioning and fans. This surge in usage can strain the power grid, potentially leading to blackouts or power cuts. Water supplies may also be under pressure as the demand for hydration and cooling increases.

Impact on Pets

Pets are also susceptible to the heat. Dogs, for instance, can suffer from heatstroke if left in hot cars or taken for walks during peak sun hours. Ensure pets have access to shade, plenty of water, and avoid strenuous activities during the hottest parts of the day.

Travelling during a heat wave presents dangers that are often overlooked so requires careful planning and awareness. By following these tips and precautions, you can protect yourself and enjoy your holiday at home or away, despite the extreme temperatures. Stay informed, stay hydrated, and always prioritise your health and safety.

The TRIP Group offers Masterclass eventsTraining courses, and Consultancy services to help companies protect their travelling employees and fulfil their duty of care. Our comprehensive approach to travel risk management ensures that your organisation and employees are prepared, allowing you to enjoy the summer sun safely.

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