Stay safe in Sweden's heatwave: Here's what you need to know

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Stay safe in Sweden's heatwave: Here's what you need to know
How to stay safe indoors, outdoors, and in the water. File photo: Adam Ihse / TT

With temperatures forecast to stay well above the seasonal average until at least the end of the weekend, here's how to look after yourself in Sweden's heatwave.


While the temperatures of around 30C are still a long way off the highs over 40C that have been seen in countries such as Germany, Italy, and France, the extreme weather can still pose a danger in Sweden.

If you feel unwell or notice symptoms of dehydration or heatstroke, you can call 1177 for free medical advice in English or head to your nearest healthcare centre. And here's a look at what you can do to avoid getting ill in the heat.

Swim safely

Heading to the nearest lake or beach to cool off in the water is a popular way to cope with a heatwave, but make sure the water is safe or you could put yourself at risk of illness.

Warm weather can lead to overgrowth of algae, which in large quantities produces toxins that are dangerous to people and animals, sometimes leading to rashes and stomach flu-like symptoms. Designated swimming spots in Sweden are tested regularly, so look out for signs and flags near the water as well as advice on municipality websites and social media for any temporary bathing bans.

Photo: Alexander Hall/

Sadly, high temperatures also  typically lead to an increase in drownings. During 2018, a total of 135 people died due to drowning in Sweden, and most of those deaths happened during the summer's heatwave.

"Going from the experience we had last summer, we want to make people aware that we need a high level of awareness of safety, and we can't just throw ourselves into the water even if it's really nice," Karin Brand, general secretary of the Swedish Life Guard Society, told the TT newswire.

Last year, the groups disproportionately likely to be drowning victims were small children, young adults, the elderly, people with existing health problems, and people under the influence of alcohol. Windy days also saw more drowning cases, and men and boys were more likely to be victims than women.

READ ALSO: The absolute best spots for a swim in Stockholm

Take precautions in the sun

There are several things you should do to reduce your risk of falling ill due to the heat. In Sweden it can be tempting to maximize the time spent in the sun, but it's best to stay indoors or in shadow during the hottest part of the day.

Photo: Ulf Lundin/

If you're outside, it's import to wear suncream and sunglasses, and remember that suncream takes around 15 minutes to have an effect, so it's best to put it on before leaving the house, and then reapply every few hours or after getting wet. Try to wear a hat and/or long, loose clothing to keep cool too.

Hot weather can easily lead to dehydration, so make sure to increase your water intake, cut back on alcohol and caffeine, and snack on foods with a high water content such as melon and strawberries.


Keep your home cool

Sweden's Public Health Agency also advises avoiding any strenuous activity on days with extremely warm temperatures. You can keep your home as cool as possible using fans or air conditioning if you have them, but also by taking measures such as keeping curtains closed during the day if you're out, opening windows and doors at night to let colder air in, and cool down with showers or using a damp towel if you feel too warm.

Look after people in at-risk groups

Certain groups are more at risk of falling ill due to severe heat, including children, elderly people, pregnant women, and people with disabilities or chronic illnesses, according to Sweden's Public Health Agency.

If you know someone in these groups, especially if they live alone, try to check in on them if you can and see if there's anything you can do to help. That might be lending them a fan for their apartment or offering to run errands for them so they can rest at home, for example.

THE LOCAL GUIDE: How the Swedish healthcare system works

Be careful with cars and prams

Cars can get extremely hot on sunny days, so it's crucial to be very careful if you're travelling with pets or small children, who are sensitive to heat and can fall ill quickly in an overheated car. If possible, leave pets at home and don't leave children in cars while running errands.

Overheated prams and pushchairs can also be a problem, with blankets used to protect babies from the sun's rays often trapping heat inside the pram. Babies are particularly sensitive to heat, so it's important to keep the pram in the shade as much as possible and check on the child regularly. You can also buy specially designed covers that will protect the baby from both overheating and from UV rays.

Photo: Simon Paulin/

Take extra care with medicines

Most medicines are meant to be stored in a cool, dry place, and in some cases overheating can reduce their effectiveness and reduce their shelf life. But a temporary heatwave shouldn't usually be a problem.

The Swedish Medical Products Agency shares the following guidelines: "Medicines without special storage instructions or with the instruction 'stored at a maximum of 25/30C' can handle shorter periods of summer heat and a few degrees of higher temperatures. Tablets and capsules without special storage instructions or with the instruction 'stored at maximum 25/30C' can also handle a few hours in a hot car."

The agency states that if medicines are usually kept at room temperature, you don't need to refrigerate them but that this won't usually affect them negatively. There are exceptions though, for example if the packaging states that the medicine shouldn't be refrigerated or if the medicines are sensitive to moisture. If you're unsure about your medicines, read the product information carefully and contact a pharmacist or the 1177 helpline.



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