Hot weather continues in France: 10 things not to do in a heatwave

Avoid cold showers and do not turn your air conditioning too low are among tips to stay cool as Météo France continues to warn of ‘canicule’ conditions

15 June 2021
Young woman reacting in shock to cold shower water. Hot weather continues in France: 10 things not to do in a heatwave

Contrary to common belief, taking cold showers actually makes your body temperature hotter in the long-run Pic: LarsZ / Shutterstock

By Hannah Thompson

France is still sweltering in heatwave conditions with an official Météo France ‘canicule’ warning in place in seven departments in the southeast. We explain what not to do in this hot spell.

The heatwave is expected to last until at least tomorrow, Wednesday June 16, morning. There is currently a ‘canicule’ and thunderstorm warning in Aude, Pyrénées-Orientales, and Gard; a heatwave alert in Vaucluse, Ardèche, and Drôme; and heatwave and flooding warnings in Isère.

Thunderstorm warnings are in place in 14 departments: Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Hautes-Pyrénées, Haute-Garonne, Ariège, Andorra, Aude, Hérault, Pyrénées-Orientales, Hautes-Alpes, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Var, Alpes-Maritimes, and both departments of Corsica.

Temperatures hit 37C in some parts of the country yesterday (June 14).

In France, an official ‘canicule’ or heatwave is declared when temperatures in the area reach significantly higher than average for three days and three nights consecutively.

In Paris, this is 31C during the day and 21C at night. In Marseille, the level is set at 34C during the day, and 24C at night. The number of inhabitants in the town is also taken into consideration.

Read more: Wildfire risk and heatwave alerts as temperatures hit 37C in France

10 things not to do in a heatwave

  1. Avoid leaving your shutters open all day - Keeping shutters closed will keep your home cool. Open them for ventilation in the cooler hours.
  2. Do not set your air conditioning too cold - This sounds counterproductive, but keeping your aircon on too cool can cause you to catch a cold. Better to keep the temperature slightly higher, and stay healthy.
  3. Avoid taking cold showers during the day - Contrary to common belief, taking cold showers actually makes your body temperature hotter in the long-run, as your body tries to heat you up afterwards. Maintaining a warm-to-cool temperature is more effective to stay refreshed.
  4. Avoid using a fan all night - Fans can send allergens into your face and nose, and breathing too-cold air can cause colds and respiratory issues.
  5. Reduce use of white electrical goods during the day - Cookers, ovens and washing machines all produce excess heat.
  6. Avoid sports and exercise during the hottest hours of the day - It is easier to overheat if you run or do intense exercise during the hottest hours. Try to stick to cooler hours.
  7. Do not eat heavy meals - Sticking to fruit and veg, plus plenty of water, is preferable to feel best in the heat. 
  8. Avoid alcohol or fizzy drinks - They may feel refreshing, but alcohol and sugary drinks can cause you to dehydrate faster. Try to drink at least 1.5 litres of water a day. 
  9. Do not dry sheets and clothes outside. Although they will dry quicker outside, drying them inside can help cool down your home.
  10. Do not water your garden during the day. Instead do it in the cooler hours so as to avoid the water from evaporating from plants too quickly.


Weather warning: Early frost caused by global warming

The hot weather comes after studies have shown that global warming was to blame for the late frosts seen in France in April, which caused an estimated €2 billion in losses for winemakers, the farming union FNSEA has said.

Scientific research by international network World Weather Attribution, which specialises in analysing the possible link between a specific extreme weather event and global warming, evaluated the phenomenon, which happened after very mild weather had enabled significant growth.

Analysis of vineyards in Bourgogne, Champagne and the Loire Valley found that global warming had increased the probability of such an event “by around 60%”, said scientist and director of the Institut Pierre Simon Laplace, Robert Vautard, who co-authored the study. 

He said that the issue “risks getting worse” in future years. While global warming reduces the chance of intense frost, it does cause more early heat, which can lead to premature growth that is then more likely to be lost later in the year.

Rising temperatures are “arriving earlier and earlier in the year”, said Nicolas Viovy, from the climate lab Le Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, another author of the study.

He said: “We have moved forwards almost 15 days since the 1980s. The hotter it is, the more vegetation is exposed to the risk of late frost.”

Samuel Morin, director of the Centre national de recherches météorologiques, a unit of research team and weather forecast specialists CNRS/Météo France, who did not take part in the study, said: “It is the combination of factors that cause the problem.

“We cannot say that a certain weather event is caused directly by climate change. But we can measure how much climate change has altered the probability that this event will occur.”

Related stories

Pets, masks, food: Comfort tips as temperatures soar in France
From a French vineyard: The vigneron’s war against Jack Frost
Cold weather in France: How to protect flowering fruit trees

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