I landed back in Malta around midnight last night, when the temperature was close to 30 degrees. This morning, even my 200 year-old farmhouse with metre-thick limestone walls was running a sweat. The humidity factor was around 80 per cent and stiffling.
People who visit Malta in peak summer often end up with heat-stroke, bad sun-burn and worse. Here are some quick tips on how to survive a heatwave in Malta:
1. Ideally, don’t get direct sun exposure between 11.00 and 15.30hrs. Remember the silly ditty about ‘Mad dogs and Englishmen’? Well, there’s still a large element of truth. If you can, stay indoors and catch a siesta when the sun is at its hottest.
2. Use sunblock factor 30. Anything else is useless. We’ve all read about how too much sun accelerates the ageing process. It’s time to put all this into practice.
3. Wear a hat with a brim. A large one. Baseball caps do nothing for the ears and neck.
4. Drink plenty of water. Stay away from any alcohol if you are in the sun. If you want something flavoured, try Kinnie. It’s an acquired taste, but part of our heritage and might give you a bit of an energy boost, and has a bitter-sweet kick.
5. Be careful of staying in front of an air-conditioner for a long period. You can get an ice-cream headache when you get away from it. And they do circulate germs.
6. Keep young children covered. We repeatedly see young, fair-skinned children playing on a beach and going salmon-pink. Consider getting some UV protective swim wear. Local children often have just bathers on, but don’t do as they do if you’re a short-stay visitor with young kids here on holiday.
7. If you are on an open-top tourist bus, or on a boat, you may not be too hot as there’ll always be a nice breeze whizzing by. But while you’re staying cooler, your skin is far more exposed and in practice, you’re dehydrating as quickly as if you were standing still in the middle of Republic Street. Take the same precautions!
8. Wear loose-fitting cotton or linen clothing – go for natural fibres. Save the lycra for other places.
9. Sometimes, soaking a bandana in water gives some respite.
10. If you want to spend a whole day on beach, rent an umbrella. Most beaches have these in abundance for a relatively modest charge. It can certainly get you to enjoy a painless stay. But remember that harmful UV rays bounce off the sand and under your umbrella too! So don’t forget the suncream.
11. And, to really go native, go early morning or very late afternoon to the beach. Dive off into a beach bar or back to your hotel for lunch and a siesta.
During the June heatwave in the UK this year, many a newspaper asked why the British were so ill-equipped to cope when continentals and Mediterranean folk live though temperatures 30 degree C and upward every year. The answer: well, we don’t pack in all our sunbathing in a few short days, so there’s far less pressure to ‘be out in the sun’ come what may; and we hibernate as much as we can around the midday to mid-noon hours.
Our watchwords: Heat can bring harm, not just happiness.