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Health activates the National High Temperature Plan, which incorporates a more precise alert system by zone

MADRID, 16 May.

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Health activates the National High Temperature Plan, which incorporates a more precise alert system by zone


This Thursday, the Ministry of Health activated the National Plan for Preventive Actions for the Effects of Excess Temperatures on Health, which will be in force until September 30 and which, as a novelty, introduces a more precise alert system by zone.

In addition, a flexibility criterion is introduced that allows the extension of the Plan until next October 15. Its objective is to reduce the impact on the health of the population of excess temperature, especially in risk or more vulnerable groups, such as older people, pregnant women, minors and people with chronic diseases, as well as in those groups that perform their work or exert themselves outdoors.

One of the priority actions of the Plan is to alert health authorities and citizens sufficiently in advance of possible risk situations. To this end, the Ministry of Health will provide the Autonomous Communities with the predictions of maximum temperatures prepared by the State Meteorological Agency (AEMET) on a daily basis, as well as the health risk levels due to high temperatures.

The Plan defines for each territorial area a temperature threshold of impact on health from which a significant statistical relationship between mortality and heat has been observed.

Each day, the Ministry of Health establishes a daily risk level for each territorial area based on the difference between the temperatures predicted by AEMET for that day and the following two days and the temperature threshold for health impact.

There are four risk levels: level 0 (green), no risk; level 1 (yellow), low risk; level 2 (orange), medium risk, and level 3 (red), high risk. Based on these, Health and the CCAA take appropriate risk communication and prevention measures.

The main novelty of the Plan in 2024 is the introduction of the Meteoalert Zone used by the State Meteorological Agency (AEMET) as a territorial level for extreme heat warnings, which complements the provincial level used in previous plans. Thus, there are a total of 182 meteohealth zones, compared to the 52 provincial ones.

The calculation of the new thresholds per weather alert zone has been carried out by the Climate Change Health and Urban Environment Research Group, of the Carlos III Health Institute (ISCIII). Extreme heat warnings at the Meteoalert zone level will be available starting June 3.

To this end, this ISCIII unit has carried out an epidemiological study where the threshold temperatures of impact on mortality due to heat waves are established according to meteohealth zones.

This study analyzes the time series from January 1, 2009 to December 31, 2018, basing the definition of meteohealth zones on the meteoalert zones defined by AEMET.

These are areas determined by AEMET for weather prediction purposes with similar climatologies of adverse weather events (AMF) and, therefore, can be considered homogeneous areas of territory from a climatological point of view in terms of the behavior of daily temperatures.

For example, on the coast of Cádiz, the high temperature threshold is 34.7ºC, although in the Cádiz countryside it rises to 38.8ºC, more than four degrees Celsius higher. On the other hand, in the provincial system, the risk level for Cádiz - for the entire province - is 39.6ºC.

More striking is the case of Lugo, where in A Mariña (in the north) the alert is triggered at 25.5ºC, but, in the southern part of the province, the threshold is located at 37.1ºC, almost 10ºC. further.

Thus, on the Asturian coast, the alert level is activated at 23.9ºC. On the other hand, in other areas of Spain, such as the Sierra Norte of Seville, the risk begins at 40ºC.

To minimize the damage that people may suffer, the Ministry of Health insists on a decalogue of general recommendations. First of all, the department reminds that you should drink water or liquids frequently, even if you do not feel thirsty and regardless of the physical activity you do. In this sense, it is advisable to avoid drinks with caffeine, alcohol or very sugary, as they can promote dehydration.

Likewise, although anyone can suffer from a heat-related problem, special attention should be paid to babies, minors, pregnant or lactating women, as well as older people or people with diseases that can be aggravated by heat (such as heart, kidney, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, cancer, pathologies that hinder mobility, dementia and other mental illnesses, as well as drug or alcohol abuse). It also recommends staying as long as possible in cool, shaded or heated places, and cooling off.

In addition, we must try to reduce physical activity and avoid playing sports outdoors in the middle of the day; wear light, loose-fitting, breathable clothing; never leave anyone in a parked and closed vehicle (especially people who are minors, elderly or with chronic illnesses); Consult a healthcare professional if symptoms last more than an hour and may be related to high temperatures.

Finally, it is advisable to keep medicines in a cool place, as heat can alter their composition and effects; and eat light meals that help replace the salts lost through sweat (salads, fruits, vegetables, juices, etc.).