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August 23, 2016
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How cool is that?

“DOCTOR AT SEA” a monthly Column in The Islander Magazine

How cool is that?

I know I have started to make the cross-cultural transition from the British Maritime climate to the Mediterranean climate when I head for the shade on sunny summer days. We sat in a narrow shady street at a pavement café off La Rambla recently and reflected on how important maximising the sun used to be to me when we came to Mallorca on family holidays in years past.

August, with July as a close second, is the hottest time in the Spanish year and we are so fortunate to live in this beautiful island of Spain which has the benefit of sea breezes. Not for nothing does the Royal Family spend August at Marivent and I wonder if it took you two years or more, as it did me, before realising that the name means Sea and Wind?

Sea breezes and associated wind chill, especially on a hot moist skin, can make such a difference. Houses in the Old Town of Gibraltar were built north-south with their internal doors facing east-west to catch the Levante or east wind which arises around the Balearics in May to October and is concentrated through the Strait especially between that warmer part of the year. The doors of the houses have a hinged panel above which can be left open when the door is closed and this facilitates a cooling air movement through all the rooms in the heat of summer.

Natural air-conditioning is not always possible and many of us are grateful for modern technology to create an artificial climate to allow life to go on reasonably uninterrupted. People can get quite suspicious about the health hazards of air-con but the risk of biological infection such as Legionnaires disease is avoided by regular and effective maintenance. The dehumidified atmosphere can cause dry cough but the well-maintained filtered intake found on many yachts can, paradoxically, reduce problems such as pollen-induced hay fever or asthma. Domestic air-con may not be to the same standard or get the same regular maintenance to minimise problems with dirt and contaminants and this can damage the overall reputation of air-conditioning.

Keeping cool is not tantamount to inviting a chill or a common cold or flu-like illness – these illnesses are respiratory infections caused by breathing in someone else’s viruses or bacteria. However, running the air-con too cold can dry out the nose and airways and cause a congested catarrhal reaction as well as headache.

Following the local historic customs can help a lot in the summer heat – not always easy when there is work to do but some simple tips might fit in some days.

The most attractive local custom has to be the siesta and pushing work to the cooler ends of the day but that is a weekend dream solution for many. Taking a longer lunch break in a breezy shade might help and also avoiding heavy exercise when the sun is high. It is probably not a good idea to use too much alcohol which aggravates dehydration unless followed by plenty of other fluids. Loose fitting clothes can help rather more than shorter tighter clothes which limit air flow and the localised wind chill effect, as well as increasing the risk of skin damage. A fan on the desk or in the office/apartment is another simple tip to improve wind-chill and then there is always the pool! – or the sea, in or out of a yacht!

With the temperatures drifting up into the thirties we all have an enviable problem to deal with and maybe we should just stay cool about it all when we see visitors, especially from Northern Europe, who are just so pleased to have a week or two in the heat. We know we will get the place to ourselves again fairly soon and we know we have arrived when we look forward to the cooler days!

Dr Ken Prudhoe, MCA Approved Doctor, can be contacted at Club de Mar Medical Centre, Palma de Mallorca.

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