Staying cool during the summer months is essential for maintaining comfort and well-being in the heat.

Stay cool when a heatwave hits

In recent years, the UK has experienced a significant rise in average yearly temperature, with heatwaves becoming more commonplace. According to the UK Met Office, warm spells have more than doubled in average length from 5.3 days in 1961-90 to over 13 days in the decade 2008-2017.

In 2022, the UK experienced air temperatures above 40°C for the first time ever, as part of one of the hottest, driest summers the UK has ever had.

These changes highlight the increasing importance of learning how to remain cool during these times. As the UK’s infrastructure and housing is not traditionally designed to handle such heat, it’s becoming more essential to understand how to adapt.

By implementing some or all of the following ten tips, you can take care of yourself and your loved ones if the mercury rises.

1. Stay hydrated

During a heatwave, your body loses fluids more rapidly. It’s important to stay hydrated to maintain your body temperature and prevent heat-related illnesses. Drink plenty of water, even before you feel thirsty. Include fruits and vegetables with high water content, such as watermelon or cucumber in your diet to boost your hydration. If possible, avoid alcohol and caffeine, as both can worsen dehydration.

2. Use electric fans

While fans do not cool the air, they do circulate it and help evaporate sweat, making you feel cooler. If you place your fan by the window at night, it can bring in cooler air from outside. Nowadays, there are plenty of energy-efficient and quieter fans available for purchase, which are less likely to disturb you when you’re trying to sleep at night.

3. Create a DIY air conditioner

To maximise the effects of your fan, you can create a makeshift air conditioner by placing a bowl of ice in front of it. As the fan blows air over the ice, it distributes the cooler air that is generated as the ice melts. This can offer some respite from the heat.

4. Close curtains and blinds

Around 30% of unwanted heat enters a room through windows, particularly south-facing ones. To cool a room efficiently, close curtains and blinds during the hottest parts of the day. This can significantly reduce indoor temperatures and save energy. If you need natural light, you can purchase inserts for your windows that let in sunlight but block the sun’s heat.

5. Optimise your clothing

Dressing appropriately can help regulate your body temperature and prevent sunburn. Choose light, loose-fitting clothes made of breathable natural fibres such as cotton or linen. Opt for lighter colours that reflect heat rather than absorb it, and remember to consider sun safety and skin protection.

6. Use cooling towels or cloths

Placing a cooling towel or damp cloth on your neck, forehead, or wrists can quickly bring relief from the heat. These areas are pulse points, where blood vessels are close to the skin surface. Cooling these areas can help lower your overall body temperature. For an extra refreshing cool down, you can pop your towel or cloth in the freezer for ten minutes or so to ensure it’s really cold.

7. Take cool showers or baths

If using a cooling towel or cloth isn’t enough, taking a cool shower or bath can immediately and effectively lower your body temperature. This is also a fast and efficient method of preventing heat-related illness symptoms from developing if they are identified.

8. Stay in the shade

To reduce the risk of heat-related illnesses, it’s important to stay out of direct sunlight and stay cool. When outdoors, try to stay in shaded areas. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat or using an umbrella can protect your skin and help you stay cool.

9. Avoid strenuous activities

Strenuous activities can raise your body temperature. During a heatwave, try to schedule any strenuous activities during the cooler parts of the day. If possible, avoid exertion such as high-intensity workouts and manual labour altogether, especially during the hottest part of the day. This will help keep you safer in the heat.

10. Utilise air-conditioned public spaces

During a heatwave, it’s important to find ways to cool down. Consider spending time in cooling centres or public spaces with air conditioning, such as libraries or shopping centres. Alternatively, if your workplace has air conditioning, spend part or all of your day there to get respite from the heat, especially if your home is very warm.

Adaption is key to staying cool in a heatwave

As climate change increases the frequency of heatwaves, adapting to them is becoming a necessary part of our lives. By implementing these strategies, you can protect yourself and your family while staying cool during the summer heat.


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