Expert's top tips on staying cool and safe during the UK heatwave

Feet - in water
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)


While we often complain about the cold and wet conditions in Britain, we are equally vocal about our discomfort during hot spells. However, instead of merely grumbling about the weather, it's more beneficial to take proactive steps to cool down.

It's crucial to be extra cautious when temperatures in the UK reach 24C, as this is the point at which heat-related illnesses and fatalities begin to rise. Excessive heat can lead to serious health issues and even death, reports Leicestershire Live.

Certain individuals, such as those over 65, under five, pregnant women, people with medical conditions like heart disease and mental health disorders, and outdoor workers, are particularly susceptible to heat and require additional protection during hot weather. Gradual acclimatisation over time can help increase your tolerance to heat.

READ MORE: 'I bought a portable air conditioner you can pick up on Amazon and it has saved my sleep'

To stay cool, research suggests that immersing your feet in cold water is an effective way to lower your core body temperature and ensure your organs function properly. This can also help alleviate swelling in your ankles and feet.

However, taking a lukewarm shower or bath is the quickest and most efficient method to cool down. Avoid the temptation to bathe in extremely cold water, as this can lead to cold shock, which can be hazardous.

In times of drought, it's important to conserve water and focus on cooling specific areas such as your feet, hands, or neck and face. The cooling sensation of a fan may feel pleasant, but it doesn't always help to lower your body temperature. In fact, fans can sometimes exacerbate the situation, particularly in arid heat conditions, accelerating dehydration and heat-related illnesses.

The World Health Organization advises that using a fan in temperatures exceeding 35C won't decrease your risk of suffering from heat exhaustion or heatstroke. Staying hydrated and replacing the minerals lost through perspiration is crucial. In extremely hot conditions (high 30s), we can sweat between 3-4 litres per hour and up to 10 litres a day, equivalent to 40 cups of tea.

Hot beverages might momentarily increase your core body temperature, but they also stimulate sweating, which subsequently cools you down. Cold and icy drinks can also help to cool you down. It's believed that hot drinks could be slightly more effective than cold ones. Regardless of the temperature, ensure you're consuming plenty of fluids.

Wild swimming is another method to combat the heat. However, be mindful of the risk of cold shock. Gradually immerse your body in the water, be aware of your swimming capabilities and familiarise yourself with the regulations regarding safe swimming locations, as many people tragically drown during hot weather.

Those sweltering, sleep-deprived nights during a heatwave might have you contemplating whether it's worth dipping into your savings to install air conditioning. The heat can be particularly intense in urban areas, which form 'urban heat islands' - metropolitan regions significantly warmer than the surrounding rural areas.

However, there is a more energy-efficient solution. Green walls and roofs not only add aesthetic appeal but can also reduce the temperature of the buildings they cover by up to 12C. Green walls can be a staggering 32C cooler than traditional walls and can save up to 59 per cent on energy costs while providing sound insulation.

Since 2008, these green installations have flourished in London boroughs where they have been incorporated into local planning policies. They cool flat-roofed buildings in the summer and insulate them in the winter, minimise flood risk by absorbing rainwater, filter air pollution, and provide sanctuaries for rare and endangered wildlife which can also struggle with the heat.

Providing fresh water dishes in your garden or balcony can make a world of difference for wild animals. Birds and hedgehogs will appreciate any food you leave out for them throughout the year, but during the summer, the hardened ground can make foraging difficult. Plants also suffer in the heat. You can assist by learning the optimal times to water them.

And keep an eye on your pets. Never leave them (or people) in cars. It's best to walk pets in the morning or evening when the pavement and ground surface are cooler.

Climate change is leading to an increase in heatwaves. Research indicates that an individual born in 1960 would typically experience around four heatwaves, while someone born in 2020 could face up to 30 heatwaves with a 1.5C rise in temperature. There's a 50 per centlikelihood of reaching this level within the next decade. Therefore, taking measures to protect oneself from heat might seem like a no-brainer, but it could be a matter of life or death.

Chloe Brimicombe, a PhD Candidate in Climate Change and Health at the University of Reading, contributed to this article. This piece has been republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. You can read the original article here.

We are now bringing you the latest updates on WhatsApp first