As Britain swelters: How to stay cool in a heatwave

Feeling hot and bothered? Thirty degree heat is fine when you are sitting by a pool in Spain, but not so much fun when stuck at home or work.

Drinking plenty of water is often overlooked
Drinking plenty of water is often overlooked

The need to keep cool isn't just about comfort. people who are vulnerable can find themselves unwell if their body is not able to regulate its temperature properly.

Age UK is among those issuing tips on coping in temperatures that are expected to reach 33C (90F) in the next few days. The concern is that, with temperatures at night remaining relatively high, there will be little respite from the heatwave,

Here are just a few tips to keep your cool.

Stay hydrated:

  • It may seem like an obvious one, but drinking plenty of water is often overlooked.

  • It is recommended to drink between 1.5 and two litres per day. Watch out for signs of dehydration – confusion, cramps, dark urine and feeling weak. You don’t have to feel thirsty to be dehydrated.

Avoid alcohol

  • Bad news for some, but forecasters advise against drinking alcohol in the intense heat, as well as teas and coffees, which act as diuretics and can cause dehydration. If you feel thirsty, drink water or a soft drink without caffeine. If you are drinking alcohol over a long period, try to alternate with soft drinks.

Turn on the fan

  • Fans can help your body regulate its internal temperature. Sticking a pan of ice cubes in front of it can make the circulating air even cooler. If you haven't got one handy, fill a hot water bottle with cold water instead.

Dump the duvet

  • It's not the weather for high tog duvets. Dig out a nice cotton sheet instead. They absorb sweat better and are simply more comfortable than duvets. Your body temperature will begin falling during the night, so hopefully you won't feel warm and uncomfortable for too long.

Work your windows and curtains

  • While it might seem counterintuitive, keeping windows closed and drawing the blinds or curtains during the peak heat can keep rooms cooler when it is very hot. Wait until the full sun stops shining into the windows and then open them. Try to cut a breeze blowing by opening windows in different rooms and keeping doors open.

Pyjamas in the freezer

  • During the day, place your pillowcase or pyjamas in the freezer. Take them out before going to bed. Hopefully they will cool you down and help you sleep better. Throughout the day, wearing loose, cool clothing and a hat and sunglasses will also help. And wearing lighter coloured clothes will keep you cooler. Sticking a flannel in the freezer can be especially refreshing to place on your forehead as you lie in bed.

Heat rises... so sleep on the lower floor

  • If your home has two or three floors, it might be worth considering sleeping downstairs. Spend more time in the coolest room in the house, wherever you feel most comfortable.

Use ice and cold water

  • Applying ice to the wrists and side of the neck can help to lower body heat as the blood vessels in those areas are close to the skin's surface. Taking a cool shower can also significantly reduce body temperature and make you feel more comfortable, especially before going to bed.

  • Try putting iced water into a hot water bottle and put it in your bed. It will help you stay cool as you get off to sleep.

How to sleep better at night

  • It can be all too easy to start feeling annoyed and exasperated when you're struggling to sleep.

  • The best thing to do is to try and distract yourself with a relaxing activity such as reading – and try going back to bed when you're tired.

  • Avoid the temptation to go on your phone, as this activity can stimulate you.

Check on friends and neighbours

  • Make sure those around you are well. Hot weather in summer can be as dangerous as a cold spell in the winter. People with dementia are particularly vulnerable as they may not drink enough fluids.

  • Ensure the elderly are able to stay cool and are set up with a fan if possible. Get medical advice if they are suffering from breathing difficulties in the heat.

  • Older people are also more vulnerable to heatstroke. The symptoms include headaches, dizziness, nausea and a fast pulse.

Finally, if you can . . . enjoy it!

It's not all doom and gloom, of course. The weather is there to be enjoyed, but just be sensible. Stay in the shade outside and enjoy the balmy evenings by sitting out for a late supper and a drink. If you have a patio or nice garden, treat it like an extra room while the temperatures allow you to. After all, all heatwaves come to an end.

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