As France set to hit 34C, doctors offer tips on wearing masks in hot weather

Temperatures across Europe are soaring this week, with parts of France forecast to reach 34C on Wednesday - which could make wearing a mask quite sweaty and uncomfortable.

As France set to hit 34C, doctors offer tips on wearing masks in hot weather
Masks are not compulsory on the street, but are on public transport and in many shops, businesses and tourist attractions. Photo: AFP

Masks are compulsory for many activities in France including riding on public transport and entering most shops, public buildings and tourist sites.

Failure to wear a mask on public transport can earn you a €135 fine and in Paris police have been out on the Metro – never the most comfortable place in hot weather anyway – to ensure the rules are being adhered to.

Most people will have already noticed that wearing a mask when it's hot can be sweaty, uncomfortable and generally gross, but in extreme cases it can also lead to heat exhaustion or heatstroke.

READ ALSO These are the 9 lockdown rules you still need to follow in France

Researchers at the Canadian Robert-Sauvé institute for health and safety at work said: “Wearing a protective mask is accompanied by an increase in the temperature of the covered skin and also of the air between the mask and the skin.

“Because it is well innervated and vascularised, the face is more sensitive to heat than other parts of the body.”

So how can you stick to health guidance on masks and avoid overheating?

Some of the tips offered include

  • Breathing through your nose not your mouth, as this generates less heat and humidity
  • Avoiding wearing a mask during intense physical exercise such as running
  • Keep yourself as cool as possible by using a cold object such as a towel or a cold drink can on your face and neck
  • Make sure you are well hydrated

If masks get wet they should be thrown away or, in the case of the fabric masks, changed and washed, says the French Health Ministry.

In France wearing a mask is generally not mandatory on the street, but masks should be used in situations where it is impossible to observe physical distancing rules, such as at demonstrations.

Many shops and businesses have masks mandatory for their customers and tourist attractions such as the Louvre and Eiffel Tower have also included mandatory masks on their list of hygiene rules as they reopen.

French weather forecaster Météo France predicts that Paris and southern France will see temperatures of up to 34C on Wednesday and Thursday, with most of the country predicted to be above 30C.

The hot spell is forecast to break on Friday with widespread thunder storms.

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Hosepipe bans, well water and pools – your questions answered on France’s drought restrictions

France is suffering an unprecedented drought and the whole country is now under some level of water restrictions - we answer your questions on what this means for daily life in France.

Hosepipe bans, well water and pools - your questions answered on France's drought restrictions

Since the beginning of August, the whole country had been on drought alert, with different areas under different restrictions.

You can check the map HERE to find out what level of restriction (grey, yellow, orange or red) applies in your area, and what those restrictions mean.

In addition to the national restrictions, local authorities including mairies have the right to impose extra restrictions if necessary – right up to rationing tap water.

In some areas, the tap water has run completely dry, and in those areas it is the responsibility of the mairie to ensure access to drinking water – usually by distributing bottled water.

If your local mairie has imposed extra restrictions you will usually be contacted directly, but you can also check the mairie website.

Here we answer some of the most commonly-asked questions;

Is there a hosepipe ban?

Hosepipe bans are common in the UK during drought periods, but French water restrictions work differently. There is no per se ban on hosepipes, but many areas have limited activities such as car-washing or watering the garden that you might normally use a hosepipe for.

Check local restrictions in your area, but for example in orange alert areas watering laws and flower beds is forbidden while vegetable gardens can only be watered between 8pm and 9am. These rules apply whether you are using a hosepipe, watering can or any other implement.

Sprinklers are banned in many areas.

I have a well on my property, can I use water from the well to water the garden?

It’s not uncommon in rural areas for properties to have a well, spring, borehole or similar in the garden that provides fresh but untreated water. Obviously you shouldn’t drink this as it may not be safe, but many people use them to water gardens.

The standard level of drought restrictions cover only tap water, but local authorities can impose restrictions on all types of water if the situation requires it.

Unless otherwise stated, water restrictions concern only l’eau potable – tap water – so you can continue to use water from the well.

If your local restrictions mention l’eau brute – untreated water – that includes all types of water, including water from your well.

My mairie is restricting the use of l’eau brute – what is this?

L’eau brute is untreated water and covers anything that doesn’t come out of the tap – the most common sources of this is a well or borehole on your property but it would also cover water gathered from a nearby river, lake or spring.

People who have a private well often use the l’eau brute to water the garden.

Standard water restrictions only concern tap water, but in some areas – including on the island of Corsica – local authorities have imposed restrictions on untreated water as well, as local water tables fall dangerously low.

Can I fill or refill my swimming pool?

This depends on the level of drought restriction in place in your area, but most parts of France now have some restrictions on private swimming pools.

In yellow and orange alert areas, pools can be filled up for the first time and then can be topped up, but not emptied and refilled.

In areas on red alert level pools cannot be filled or topped up, and local municipal swimming pools may also be closed. Mairies can also impose extra restrictions on private swimming pools.

Could authorities start rationing tap water?

Yes, this is already in place in some cases.

The highest national level of water restrictions – red – states that people should only use water for essential reasons such as drinking, washing and cooking.

However in some areas local authorities have gone further and imposed a daily limit on water, for example 200 litres per person per day.

In other areas there is a de facto limit as the taps have run dry. In these areas, maries are responsible for ensuring the commune has a supply of drinking water, usually by distributing bottled water to households.

Can I wash my car?

Again, it depends on the level of restriction you are on. The yellow level puts car-washing in with the garden-watering as something that can only be done at certain hours while at higher restriction levels it is banned altogether. 

If you are in a red alert zone water can only be used for essential purposes such as drinking, washing yourself (not your car) and cooking, and mairies may also impose their own restrictions. 

Even if you are in a low-level restriction zone, people are asked to make an effort to save water where they can and cut non-essential use, so maybe your car could deal with being a bit dusty for the next few weeks.

Can I wash my pets?

Some areas have restrictions in place relating to animals, but these tend to be more aimed at livestock than animaux de compagnie (pets)

Heatwaves can be stressful for domestic pets like dogs and cats and many enjoy a nice cool bath as the temperatures rise.

While you should try to be careful and use water sparingly, if your pet needs a bath to cool down and stay healthy then that’s OK. 

Is there advice on saving water?

Even in areas on a low level of alert, the Environment Ministry is asking everyone to make an effort to save water and has released the following tips:

  • Turn off taps, and don’t let them drip;
  • Limit the amount of tap water used on gardens – install containers to collect and store rainwater to use instead (some areas have more stringent measures in place on gardens)
  • Install water-saving equipment;
  • Take a shower instead of a bath;
  • Repair water leaks;
  • Don’t run your washing machine or dishwasher half empty.

We are happy to answer questions from our members on any aspect of life in France, if you have a question email us on [email protected]