Don’t joke around with the heat, because excessive heat, the so-called heat waves, can be very harmful to the health of certain categories of people in particular.

According to recent estimates, in fact, approximately 30% of the world’s population is currently exposed to heat conditions that are particularly critical for health for at least 20 days a year and this percentage is set to increase in the coming years even if greenhouse gas emissions tend to decrease.

We’re talking about heat waves when, for several consecutive days, very high temperatures are recorded, associated with high humidity, strong solar radiation and little or no ventilation.

Heat Waves: What Happens to the Body

Under normal conditions the body cools down through sweating, but if the humidity is very high the sweat does not evaporate and therefore there is no heat subtraction in the change of state and therefore body temperature does not dropbut rather it rises and this can lead to damage various vital organs and the brain itself.

Prolonged exposure to heat waves can cause disorders mild ones such as cramps, fainting, swelling, or more serious ones such as congestion, heat stroke, dehydration.

Extreme heat conditions can also worsen the health conditions of people with pre-existing chronic pathologies.

Preventing the effects of heat waves

The summer activities of the Warmth Plan aimed at preventing the negative effects of heat on healthespecially in the most fragile people. This program includes

  • the daily processing of a city-specific heat wave bulletin
  • referral to the local reference centre (CL) responsible for socio-health prevention interventions
  • publication on the Ministry of Health portal for general information to the population

THE heat wave bulletins are developed by the Department of Epidemiology SSR Lazio Region, within the National Operating System for the forecasting and prevention of the effects of heat on health; they are published, as every year from Monday to Friday, until mid-September.

The bulletin indicates 4 levels of graduated risk:

  • level 0 – no risk
  • Level 1 – Low risk expected for the next 24-72 hours
  • Level 2 – High risk expected for the next 24-72 hours
  • level 3 – high risk conditions (level 2) persisting for 3 or more consecutive days for the next 24-48 hours.

The operating system is located in 27 Italian cities and allows to identify, on a daily basis, for each specific urban area, the weather-climatic conditions that are at risk for health, especially for vulnerable subjects: the elderly, the chronically ill, children, pregnant women.


The cities monitored are: Ancona, Bari, Bologna, Bolzano, Brescia, Cagliari, Campobasso, Catania, Civitavecchia, Florence, Frosinone, Genoa, Latina, Messina, Milan, Naples, Palermo, Perugia, Pescara, Reggio Calabria, Rieti, Rome, Turin, Trieste, Venice, Verona, Viterbo.

Since June 26, the public utility number 1500 has also been active in synergy with the National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work (INAIL). This year, for the first time, the service is also aimed at the world of work: information is offered on regulations and guidelines and on the alert system on Heat-related risks to workers’ health and safety. From Monday to Friday, excluding holidays, from 9 am to 6 pm, operators provide listening and information to citizens. The service provides:

  • useful tips for preventing the effects of heat on health, with particular reference to the most fragile people
  • information on the forecasts of the heat wave surveillance system of the Ministry of Health, with the technical-scientific support of the Department of Epidemiology of the Lazio Region in 27 Italian cities
  • orientation to local services activated by the Regions and Municipalities
  • information on the warning system on heat-related risks to the health and safety of workers, set up by INAIL, in collaboration with the CNR-IBE, within the scope of the Worklimate project (which aims to investigate in depth, especially through the accident database of theINAILknowledge on the effect of environmental thermal stress conditions, in particular heat, on workers, with specific attention to the estimation of the social costs of accidents at work)
  • standards and guidelines for the protection of workers’ health outdoor from sun exposure
  • correct information to guide and resolve, where possible, any situations of discomfort
  • counseling of a medical-health nature through the collaboration of the health managers of the Ministry of Health, who ensure the presence of a second level of response.

People most at risk from heatwaves

Between the people who more than others need to be protected from heat waves We remember the elderly, newborns and children, pregnant women, people with chronic diseases such as Parkinson’s, diabetes, dementia, cardiovascular diseases, those with mental disorders, those with reduced mobility, those who abuse alcohol and drugs.

In addition to the availability of 1500, the Ministry has also developed a vademecum this year that is worth keeping in mind. useful tips valid for everyone:

  • Let’s avoid going out during the hottest hours: let’s protect especially children and the elderly by avoiding direct exposure to the sun during the hottest hours of the day.
  • Let’s protect ourselves at home and at work: the simplest measure is to shield the windows with curtains that block the passage of light, but not that of air. The use of air conditioning is useful but temperatures that are too low should be avoided (no more than 5° C compared to the outside). It is important to ensure periodic cleaning of the filters.
  • Let’s drink at least a liter and a half of water a day: drinking lots of water and eating fresh fruit is an essential measure to counteract the effects of the heat. Let’s limit the consumption of drinks with added sugars, coffee and alcohol.
  • We always follow a correct diet: let’s remember to consume 5 portions of seasonal fruit and vegetables a day. We moderate the consumption of elaborate dishes rich in fats and reduce condiments. We favor fresh foods, easily digestible and rich in water. We use little salt and favor iodized salt.
  • Let’s pay attention to the correct preservation of food: respecting the cold chain is important for food safety.
  • Let’s dress in natural fibers or clothing that guarantees transpiration. Outdoors it is useful to wear light hats to protect the head from the sun. Let’s use glasses with UV filters and sunscreens before exposing ourselves to the sun, not only when we are at the beach. The same precautions should be followed by those who work in outdoor places.
  • Let’s protect ourselves from the heat while traveling: if we are in the car, let’s remember to ventilate the passenger compartment, avoiding the hottest hours of the day where possible, and always keep a supply of water handy. Never leave babies or animals in the passenger compartment, not even for short periods.
  • Let’s do physical exercise during the cooler hours of the day. In any case, if you do physical activity, let’s remember to drink plenty of fluids and eat properly.
  • We offer assistance to people at greater risk (such as elderly people living alone, people in difficulty, etc.) and report any situations that require intervention to social and health services.
  • Let’s always remember to protect our pets too: let’s give them plenty of water even when we’re traveling and stop in shaded areas. As for dogs, let’s avoid letting them out during the hottest hours of the day so they don’t walk on the scorching asphalt.