How to keep cool in Sweden in the summer

How to keep cool in Sweden in the summer
People cool down by the water in Malmö during the summer heat. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
Sweden isn't known for its high temperatures, but that's all the more reason to take extra care when a heatwave does sweep the country. In comparison to countries more used to hot summers, Sweden lacks some of the infrastructure to keep cool.

It’s not all that common to have air conditioning in your home, or in shops, shopping malls or public transport. On the contrary, most buildings are designed to retain heat – handy during long winters, but causing difficulties as summers get increasingly warm.

This can cause problems particularly for elderly people, those with certain health conditions, and babies, who are especially sensitive to heat. Fit and healthy people can also suffer from heat exhaustion and even heatstroke if exposed to unusually high temperatures for long periods of time, so it’s good to be aware of the following health advice.

Stay safe in the sun

People in Sweden tend to maximise sunny weather by being outside as much as possible, but that’s not always advisable.

During the hottest part of the day, try to stay indoors or keep to cooler, shaded spots. In particular, make sure you avoid physical exertion during this time of day.

When you are outside, don’t forget to cover up with suncream, sunglasses, a hat and loose clothing. 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.

Keep your home cool

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, or opening windows and doors at night to let colder air in. Try to stay in the coolest part of your home, for example by moving between rooms to avoid rooms with direct sunlight.

If your apartment is exceptionally warm, you might have grounds to complain to your landlord or building association, who could be obligated to take measures to improve it, for example by installing cooling blinds. This generally only applies if the indoor temperature stays above permitted levels (26C during summer and 28C during temporary heatwaves) for a prolonged period of time.

Keep yourself cool

When all else fails and you still find yourself too warm, take regular cool showers (although some experts suggest a warm shower may be better in the long term) or a cold damp towel (especially on the neck) to lower your body temperature.

Drink more than usual, especially icy cold drinks, or eat refreshing food with a high water content like watermelon or ice cream. Cutting down on alcohol, caffeinated or sugary drinks and replacing these with water can help stop you getting dehydrated.

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, even in if left for under an hour. 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 sensitive to heat, so keep the pram in the shade as much as possible and check on the child regularly. You can buy pram covers that will protect the baby from both overheating and from UV rays.

Look after each other

If you have a friend, relative or neighbour in a vulnerable group, check in on them to see if they need help keeping their home cool, accessing food and drink, or receiving medical care.


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