EXPLAINED: What is Spain's newly activated health plan for extreme heatwaves?

The Local Spain
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EXPLAINED: What is Spain's newly activated health plan for extreme heatwaves?
Spanish Ministry of Health to activate plan to combat affects of extreme heatwaves. Photo: JORGE GUERRERO / AFP

Spain’s Ministry of Health has activated a plan to help combat heat-related illnesses in the case of extreme temperatures that the country could be facing this summer.


The National Preventive Action Plan for the Effects of Excess Temperatures on Health has been activated from Monday, May 15th and will stay in force until September 30th. 

Its main objective is to prevent and mitigate the negative effects that excessive heat can have on the health of Spanish citizens. It will particularly focus on the most vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, pregnant women, minors and people with chronic diseases, as well as those who work outdoors.  

READ ALSO: Mainland Spain breaks record temperature for April

It is the second consecutive year that a plan has been brought forward since it was launched in 2004. The plan was usually activated from June 1st, but because of the abnormally hot April, from now on, and in general, it will last from May 15th to September 30th, although with the possibility of delaying it by 15 days to October 15th, as the Spanish summer is starting earlier and each year and lasting longer too.  

Mainland Spain recorded its hottest-ever temperature for April recently, hitting 38.8C in Córdoba. 

One of the main priorities of the plan, according to the ministry, is to alert the health authorities and the public in advance of possible risk situations.

To do this, the Ministry of Health will provide each region with the maximum temperature predictions prepared by the State Meteorological Agency (AEMET) on a daily basis, as well as levels of health risk due to the heat.

READ ALSO: Spain to spend €2 billion to tackle drought

The plan will take into account the following meteorological variables: the maximum temperatures forecast for three days, the maximum and minimum temperatures recorded the day before the forecast date, and the maximum threshold temperatures based on epidemiological studies.

In addition, high temperatures that persist over a long period of time will also be considered a risk factor. 


The above factors will all decide on the risk level of each region which will be allocated level 0 (green), low-risk level 1 (yellow), medium-risk level 2 (orange) and high-risk level 3 (red).

To minimise the damage, the Ministry of Health has put together a list of recommendations for citizens. These include:

  • Drinking fluids frequently, even if you don't feel thirsty and regardless of the physical activity you do.
  • Avoiding caffeinated, alcoholic or highly sugary drinks, as they can promote dehydration.
  • Anyone who is at risk of suffering from a heat-related problem should be paid special attention. This includes babies, children, pregnant or lactating women, as well as the elderly or those with illnesses 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).
  • Staying as long as possible in cool, shaded places.

Various regions in Spain have also been putting their own measures in place, coinciding with the abnormally hot April. Catalonia started to put some measures in place on April 27th, while Andalusia, did the same during Seville’s annual Feria de Abril.


READ ALSO: The water restrictions you can expect in Spain this summer

Madrid has also been contemplating changing the opening hours of educational centers and specific monitoring of air conditioning controls in social and healthcare facilities. The city opened the first of its first outdoor swimming pools on Friday, May 12th. Extremadura has also implemented its own plan on May 15th.  

In addition to this plan, the Ministry of Social Rights is working on the implementation of a "climate shield" with measures for residences and other centres that protect the most vulnerable people from extreme heat situations, such as the elderly and those with certain illnesses.


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