A purple heat warning was in place for most of Germany on Tuesday, as temperatures were expected to soar towards 40C in some regions.
The extreme heat is to move eastwards on Wednesday, and it will ease off slightly on Thursday with thunderstorms expected.
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Health Minister Karl Lauterbach urged people to help the elderly.
“Younger people should look out for the elderly and remind them of the importance of drinking enough and keeping cool,” the minister wrote on social media while retweeting advice from the Health Ministry on coping with the heat.
“Their lives (elderly people) are in danger in the coming days. Consideration and active help are needed now.”
Jüngere Menschen sollten auf Ältere achten und sie an die Bedeutung von ausreichendem Trinken und Kühle erinnern. Bei Älteren sind oft Temperaturempfinden und Durstgefühl gestört. Ihr Leben ist in den nächsten Tagen in Gefahr. Rücksicht und aktive Hilfe sind jetzt notwendig. https://t.co/1BWxjHK6ye
— Prof. Karl Lauterbach (@Karl_Lauterbach) July 19, 2022
Meanwhile, the Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA) advised people against drinking alcohol on hot days.
Alcoholic beverages combined with high temperatures dilate the blood vessels, blood pressure drops and the body loses fluids, the centre said. This can lead to circulatory problems and even unconsciousness.
Since the summer heat leads to increased sweating and an increased need for fluids, alcoholic drinks are not appropriate, the centre said.
The centre urged people to drink water, unsweetened tea or isotonic drinks to quench their thirst.
In view of the heat-related dangers, the social association VdK demanded a heat protection plan with comprehensive plans for nursing homes.
“We urgently need a crisis plan for heat events, which causes stress, in particular to people in nursing homes and hospitals,” VdK President Verena Bentele told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland.
“A heat action plan is needed, with comprehensive guidelines for care providers: from the storage of medication to structural measures such as the installation of thermal windows and shading systems.”
The VdK leader also pleaded for an information campaign for family caregivers. “Those who are cared for at home must not be forgotten,” she said.
Bentele warned that the current heatwave could be life-threatening, especially for the elderly, those in need of care and the chronically ill.
The medical association Marburger Bund also urged for a national heat protection plan and a heat awareness campaign.
“Politicians must significantly expand their efforts for protective measures during hot spells,” chairwoman Susanne Johna told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland.
Cities and districts need heat protection plans so that senior citizen facilities, hospitals and other health care facilities can better prepare for heatwaves, which would be “best regulated by a national heat protection plan”.
Trade union Verdi called for hitzefrei (days off work or school because of heat) and longer breaks for workers because of the heat.
Authorities across Germany have been warning people to take care in the heat.
“Drink enough, avoid direct sun and physically strenuous activities, and keep your home cool,” the health authorities in Hamburg said.
High forest fire risk
Forest fires are also a major fear as temperatures rise. The highest warning level has been issued in 10 out of Germany’s 16 federal states, including Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt, as well as in Hesse, Berlin, Rhineland-Palatinate and Lower Saxony.
The Bavarian minister of forestry, Michaela Kaniber, called on all forest visitors to be especially careful.
“The current heatwave and the prevailing drought mean that in many places the forest ground is covered with dried-up, easily flammable leaves, twigs and needles. Even a carelessly discarded cigarette butt is enough to start a momentous forest fire.”