Tips on how to stay cool in France’s heatwave

With temperatures in France approaching 40C, we look at advice on how to stop yourself from overheating

A woman sitting on a sofa looking hot, with a fan pointed at her face
A few tweaks and careful actions can stop you and your family from overheating during high temperatures
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As much of the country bakes in a heatwave, we look at tips on staying cool, which includes advice from the French health authority Santé publique France (SPF).

Drink water regularly without waiting until you are thirsty

By the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Instead of waiting, drink small amounts of water (that is not too cold) often. Avoid iced water, as this can cause your body to heat up more.

Dampen your body several times a day

This helps you to feel cooler, especially if you focus on your face and forearms. You can use a flannel or just splash water onto your skin. You can also have a cool shower (but avoid too-cold water as this can also be dangerous). You may also like to use a fan (either manual or electric) and a face mist.

Eat little and often and avoid alcohol

Eating often can help you avoid dehydration and fainting, while alcohol can cause you to feel more dehydrated and dizzy, so it is best to avoid it during exceptionally-hot periods. Eating fresh and cool food (such as fresh fruit rather than hot soup or even pastries) can also help.

Avoid going out at peak times

Try not to go out during the hottest times of the day if you can, and try to stay in cooler, indoor spaces as much as possible. As well as your home, this could include a cinema, public library, supermarket, or museum.

Keep your house cool

This will help you shelter from the fierce heat. Keep your shutters and windows closed during the day, but open them at night to allow fresh air to circulate. You can also hang damp sheets in front of windows, put iced bottles of water in front of fans, and turn off electrical or kitchen equipment.

Read more: How to keep your house cool in the high heat of the French summer

Avoid excess physical activity

Taking part in sports or physical activity outdoors can make it much easier to overheat. It is better to exercise indoors in an air-conditioned space, if you can, and avoid exercise during the hottest parts of the day.

Check Météo France regularly

The forecast will not only show the predicted weather, but also issue any warnings about future heatwaves, thunderstorms, or other related conditions. This can help you to plan and remain alert.

The SPF heatwave plan (plan national canicule, PNC) also has its own levels of alert, which are issued in coordination with the forecaster.

They are:

  • Level 1 - ‘Seasonal watch (veille saisonnière)’: Corresponds to the green Météo-France heatwave vigilance level.

  • Level 2 - ‘Heat warning (avertissement chaleur)’: Corresponds to the yellow heatwave alert, in the event of a temporary heat peak over one or two days.

  • Level 3 - 'Heatwave alert (alerte canicule)’: Triggered by departmental prefects, in conjunction with the regional health agencies (ARS), by the orange alert level.

  • Level 4 - 'Maximum mobilisation (mobilisation maximale)': Corresponds to a red heatwave alert in the event of an exceptional, very intense, and long-lasting heatwave.

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