Feeling powerless in this scorching weather? Are you tossing and turning at night, concerned about vulnerable people around you, or just looking for ways to cool down?
Mannheim has 15 pages of tips, tricks and advice for you. As a heatwave continues to sow misery in Europe, the city released a handbook for its residents that, by extension, can apply to anyone struggling with record-high temperatures.
People in Mannheim know something about that record: this mid-July, the mercury went up to 37 degrees, an unusual peak for a German city. If the past few years are anything to go by, climate change will continue to hug Europe in its boiling hot embrace, make heatwaves more frequent and increase the number of tropically hot days in the summer.
To lessen the effect of the urban heat island, cities are starting to introduce structural changes and nature-based solutions, such as the addition of trees and green spaces to buildings. However, this urban climate adaptation overhaul will take some years to materialise.
Meanwhile, there’s still a lot that city dwellers can do to increase their resilience and keep healthy during hot weather spells.
Here’s Mannheim’s advice to keep cool even when the asphalt is melting under your feet.
Cheery and colourful leaflets with recommendations on how to behave in hot weather conditions can be found on Mannheim’s social media channels as well as at various physical locations, from the central train station to the citizens service centre and tourist information spots.
The municipality’s campaign includes a map highlighting cooler places where people can shelter from the heat.
At home, tips from the south
Homes unfit for warmer climates can turn into a trap in the summer. However, there’s a way to make them fitter, Mannheim says, borrowing tips from southern Europe.
In Mediterranean countries, it’s customary to close all windows and shutters during the day to keep the sun and heat out. Dwellings will be shadier during the day, bringing temperatures down by several degrees.
After sunset, opening the windows will bring in fresher air and offer a much-needed respite.
Cooling the body with wet towels, spraying water on the upper and lower part without drying oneself, taking a lukewarm shower are all simple yet effective tools to stay fresh without leaving one’s residence.
Find a shaded break outside
Around town, some locations are naturally cooler and can be a sanctuary for those seeking refuge from a heatwave.
Thanks to higher ceilings and large open spaces, temperatures in museums are a great deal lower than other locations in town. The Mannheim brochure suggests a visit to its museums and historic Baroque Palace, marrying a desire to cool down with an exciting cultural experience.
Nature lovers will find an ally in cooler city parks, nature reserves and waterways, like Mannheim’s Rhine and Neckar rivers. In the German city, residents can choose a location by looking up fresher places indoors, outdoors and along the water on an interactive map.
Look after your health
Sunscreen is a must in the summer, especially if it has a high sun protection factor (SPF). But with scorching temperatures, many will need the addition of a large-brimmed hat or cloth cap to shield themselves from the sun.
When walking in town, better to choose long-sleeved, light-coloured, loose-fitting clothes in natural fibres such as cotton and linen. And of course, common sense dictates to avoid sun exposure between 11:00 and 18:00. Physical exercise should be restricted to the early morning or late afternoon.
With swimming a natural way to cool down the body, Mannheim offers free entrance to all under 18 years old this summer.
Angebot für Kinder und Jugendliche in #Mannheim: Auch dieses Jahr erhalten sie vom 28. Juli bis 10. September freien Eintritt in die vier Mannheimer Freibäder sowie auch vom 22. August bis 10. September ins Gartenhallenbad #Neckarau. https://t.co/L1kvsPhhjT
— Mannheim (@mannheim_de) July 20, 2022
Drink and think of the environment
Sweat helps the body to cool down, but that loss of liquids needs to be replenished by drinking at least two litres of water. That’s when urban drinking fountains come in handy, like the one located near Mannheim’s Alter Meßplatz square.
Those walking around town can get water free of charge at an array of cafes and stores that take part in the nationwide ‘Refill’ initiative. All people will need to do is locate a refilling station and show up with their own bottle to avoid using too much plastic.
Eating summer fruit like watermelon and berries or vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers and salad is also a great way to stay hydrated in the heat.
Take care of those next to you
Hot days are particularly hard for the elderly, pregnant women, the homeless, people with a disability, children, and those suffering from cardiovascular, respiratory and nervous illnesses.
As a heatwave sweeps through a city, fit individuals should check on those most vulnerable and assist them when necessary. Mannheim recommends paying special attention to neighbours, friends, family members and even people on the street.
It’s good practice to pay daily visits to heat-sensitive individuals, regularly call them on the phone and watch out for signs such as a dry mouth, fatigue, weakness and loss of concentration to promptly address heat-related conditions.
Sometimes small gestures such as carrying a shopping bag for an older person can make a huge difference in someone’s life.
What to do in an emergency
A heatstroke occurs after prolonged exposure to the heat or to the sun. Worrying signs include nausea, vomiting, high body temperatures, rapid breathing, altered mental state and headache.
The condition can rapidly deteriorate and is potentially life-threatening, so it’s important to promptly assist those affected and call emergency health services.
While help is on the way, Mannheim’s tips for those offering assistance include providing water, bringing the ailing person to a shaded place, cooling down their body with cold compresses, checking their breathing and consciousness and raising their legs.
Knowing when a heatwave will hit the city is key to stay ahead of the game. These days phones, computers, tv and radio easily provide weather warnings well ahead of time to help urban dwellers prepare and find strategies to better cope with a heat emergency.