It's too darn hot
PUBLISHED: 13:05 26 June 2018 | UPDATED: 14:12 26 June 2018
With the weather predicted to hit the nineties Fahrenheit, how do we keep cool?
One of the features of Mediterranean Europe is the lines of domestic air conditioning units that populate the upstairs windows of narrow streets.
Being unaccustomed to long spells of hot weather (we still refer to 1976 as The Big One), Britain’s air conditioning is largely confined to hotels, restaurants, stores, offices and, of course, cars.
But our homes get hot, especially the newish, well insulated, double-glazed houses where the heat is designed to stay indoors. A Victorian terrace with a north-facing room – that’s what you need in this weather.
Writer, actor and lyricist Noel Coward warned of the dangers of being out in the sun during the hottest part of the day in his cautionary song Mad Dogs and Englishmen. It begins:
In tropical climes there are certain times of day
When all the citizens retire
To tear their clothes off and perspire
It’s one of those rules that the greatest fools obey
Because the sun is much too sultry
And one must avoid its ultra violet ray...
...Mad dogs and Englishmen, Go out in the midday sun.
Well, apart from the time, he got it right – the hottest time of day is around 3pm although late morning to mid-afternoon is good for a siesta and you won’t need me to tell you how important it is to wear loose clothing made of a natural fibre – eg a light cotton, drink lots of water, wear a hat (or use a parasol) and slap on the sun cream but, oh, the night-time. Upstairs (if you have one) will be hotter than downstairs and even if you are lying still with no limb in contact with any other limb, the heat can still get to you.
There is no way to guarantee a good night’s sleep when it’s hot but greatist.com offers a number of tips including having cotton bedlinen, filling a hot water bottle with cold water and popping it in the freezer for a handy bedtime cooler, making sure the lights are off, and sleeping alone. You could also have a cold shower before going to bed. As for the go nude versus loose nightwear argument well, that’s personal preference. Me? I like a pair of cotton pjs.
In the daytime, I can offer this solution – head north. On Monday, I set off from Ipswich in east Suffolk and travelled up to Sheringham on the north Norfolk coast and the car’s temperature gauge dropped dramatically when we motored north of Norwich. Sheringham was gloriously warm and sunny with a pleasing zephyr that cooled without lifting off your sun hat. Travelling back, the temperature climbed as we went south.
The coast is often a couple of degrees cooler so if you have to work this week, you could head to the nearest point on the Suffolk or Essex coast and have a paddle – cool feet also help you sleep.
Elsewhere, lifehacker.com offers 10 ways to beat the heat and though this appears obvious, one of them is to avoid using the oven. “Consider making cold soups,” it suggests... or you could have a sandwich with your pint of water.
Meanwhile, if you’re stuck in the heat, know your body’s best cooling points, eg your wrist and neck. By applying a ice cubes wrapped in a towel or similar to these pulse points, you’ll cool down more quickly and effectively.
Age UK wants us to be aware that older people can be particularly susceptible to heat-related illness.
“Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition and can develop if heat exhaustion is left untreated.”
The forecast is not currently saying that this will be an indefinite heatwave but we can’t afford to be complacent. To conserve water supplies hosepipeban.org.uk suggests a minute less in the shower and an inch off the level of bath although it is currently fine to use the hosepipe to water the garden and fill the bird bath. David Mitchell, Buying Manager for Horticulture at Wyevale Garden Centres, has offered advice to people who are worried about heat-affected birds and other visiting wildlife.
He says: “All wildlife needs water and the best way to ensure your garden stays wild through a hot summer is to provide water for birds, stop plants from going thirsty, and keep ponds topped up with clean water – ideally with harvested rainwater.”
He advises keeping bird baths topped up with clean water and putting out shallow dishes of water, filled with pebbles, to provide easy drinking places for thirsty bees, chiefly honey bees.
While the sun shines, do enjoy the summer and do stay safe.
• Stay inside during the hottest time of the day – late morning to mid-afternoon. If you do go out, wear a hat, keep to the shade and use sun screen of at least factor 15.
• If you are travelling by car or public transport always take a bottle of water.
• Avoid strenuous activity and limit activities like housework and gardening to the early morning or evening when it’s cooler.
• When inside, try to stay in the coolest parts of your home. Keep curtains and blinds closed in rooms that catch the sun. Fans can help sweat evaporate but do not cool the air itself.
• Wear loose, lightweight, light-coloured cotton clothing.
• Take cool baths or showers.
• Splash your face with cold water or place a damp cloth or scarf on the back of your neck to help you cool off.
• Drink lots of fluid – even if you’re not thirsty. Limit drinks with caffeine and avoid alcohol as it can increase dehydration.
• Eat normally but try to have more cold foods.