Eat sufficient meals and shut the shutters – French government advice for staying cool in a heatwave

With France in the grip of an early heatwave, we take a look at the French government's advice on staying cool.

Eat sufficient meals and shut the shutters - French government advice for staying cool in a heatwave
Photo: AFP

Temperature records have been tumbling across France as an unusually early mini heatwave strikes Europe.

So if you’re struggling in the heat, here’s what the French government suggests you do:

Drink plenty of water

Hopefully this is an obvious one, but when the temperature shoots up you do need to stay hydrated.

Eat in sufficient quantities

Very French-sounding advice, but in hot weather it’s easy to lose your appetite and few things will make you feel faint faster than not having eaten enough.

The French government’s graphic (below) suggests a hearty meal involving a whole chicken leg, but we’re pretty sure you are allowed to make your own dinner choices. This being France, it’s likely that whatever you choose will be delicious.

Graphic: Ministère de Santé et Solidarité

Shut the shutters

This often sounds counter-intuitive to northern Europeans who have grown up in homes without shutters, but actually they work very well to keep your home cooler in the summer (as well as warm in the winter).

Keep the shutters and windows shut during the day when the heat is at its height and then open both in the evening to allow in the cooler air.

Avoid alcohol

On a scorching day sometimes only the thought of an ice-cold pint gets you through, but the French government actually recommends avoiding alcohol. It will dehydrate you, so maybe at least drink in moderation if you can’t resist a cheeky chilled rosé on a summer evening.

Jump in a fountain

OK, this isn’t word-for-word what the government says, the official advice is ‘get your body wet’ but jumping into a fountain or water feature is a pretty good way to achieve this.

Unlike in Italy, where people are strictly forbidden from getting into fountains, in France authorities at least tolerate it and on hot days in Paris, water features like that on the Trocadero are crammed with people cooling off.

The Trocadero is always a popular spot to cool off. Photo: AFP

As temperatures rise, cities including Paris activate their hot weather plans, so you will see brumisateurs – machines pumping out cool water vapour – on the streets and in parks.

You will also see little bottles of water with a mister that will spray cool vapour onto your face on sale in pharmacies and supermarkets. 

Check on family and neighbours, especially the elderly

France is still haunted by the memory of the heatwave of 2003 when 15,000 people, most of them elderly, died. Since then a lot of work has been done on protecting the elderly and vulnerable during heatwaves.

Cities have heatwave plans which include free deliveries of fans to people registered as elderly and vulnerable, opening up air-conditioned ‘cool rooms’ in public buildings for people to go and cool off and opening extra accommodation for the homeless.

Nevertheless everyone is asked to check in with elderly or vulnerable people that they know to see if they are coping with the heat.

Swim safely

It’s a sad fact that every summer in France dozens of people drown after getting into difficulty while trying to cool off in lakes, rivers or the sea. The government advises never swimming alone.

For more advice, including for parents of young children and people working outdoors in the heat, head to the French health ministry’s website.

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VIDEO: ‘Lost’ Orca whale heading up France’s Seine river

A young Orca whale that is apparently lost has been spotted heading up the Seine in northern France.

VIDEO: 'Lost' Orca whale heading up France's Seine river

The young whale was first spotted about a week ago near the port of Le Havre, around the Pont de Normandie, while the most recent sighting was further inland – about 20km from Rouen, in the Eure region.

France’s BFMTV managed to catch a video of the whale:

Experts think that the young male was separated from his group, and might be on the search for another. This typically happens when a matriarch in the pod dies.

“They are very social animals, so it is not easy for them to be alone,” explained Delphine Eloi of the GECC regional, cetacean protection group to RTL. Eloi went on to explain that the orca is likely in poor health, as its dorsal fin appears to be completely round. 

Killer whales, which despite their name belong to the dolphin family, are occasionally spotted in the English Channel but such sightings are considered rare, let alone in a river.

“Its life is in danger. We are really very, very worried. Its state of health is very poor,” said Gerard Mauger, vice president of the GECC regional, cetacean protection group. 

“The more it stays in fresh water, the more this will accelerate the degradation of its state of health,” he told AFP.

“It is far from the sea. It is really complicated to find solutions to encourage it to head to salt water.”

He said the animal is “very thin” but likely weighs over a tonne.

Experts have reminded the public that the whale is likely not dangerous to people – there has never been a reported Orca attack on a human in the wild – though it is still advisable to keep a safe distance from it.