It’s too hot. And it’s only going to get hotter over the next few days, much to my disgust. I don’t function at all well in the heat. I’m too pale and very freckly and I don’t tan (no, really). I suspect I may have been a vampire in a previous life – which would actually explain a lot!
So, over the years, I have had to develop a few simple and practical methods to survive a heatwave without melting into a puddle, and I’m sharing them with you since the temperatures are soaring in the UK this week. If you have any cooling ideas yourself, get in touch and I’ll add them to the list.
- Keep yourself hydrated. Dehydration can be really nasty. If you have access to a freezer (even an icebox in your fridge), put water bottles in to freeze. You can drink them when the water becomes slushy, or leave it until it has frozen solid. You get cold water for much longer as it defrosts! Tea is also said to have a cooling effect in hot temperatures, although that may be a bit of an old wives’ tale – however, it will take more than a heatwave to stop us Brits from having a cuppa… Lay off the booze though, as that can make dehydration worse.
- Electric fans can be a real godsend. Or they can just feel like they’re circulating the hot air, which doesn’t help! Those little battery controlled personal fans are actually quite useful – especially if you have to go out and about since they fit neatly in your bag or pocket. I have a small wind-up fan too, which is great and saves on energy. If you don’t have one of these, technically any piece of paper can act as a fan, but why be boring? Have kids? Sit them down with their felt pens and let them design a fan for you. Then all you have to do is fold it up and perhaps learn about the language of fans as an extra bonus…
- This one is very important. Keep an eye on any elderly, ill or disabled friends and neighbours, as well as anyone you know who is pregnant or has recently given birth. The effects of excessive heat can be very serious for people in these groups, especially if they’re on certain types of medication. If you have any queries, phone your GP surgery, 111 or your local pharmacy for more information.
- Sunscreen. Obviously. Especially for the young and the very pale (like me) – and also for pets who have pale-coloured skin or fur, as they can burn too. Too much sun can damage the skin and leave it uncomfortably dry, so don’t forget to slather on the aftersun or some nicely scented moisturiser when you get home.
- Water your plants…. and yourself! It’s best to water house plants (and/or your garden) early in the morning or later at night when the temperature has dropped . Watering yourself… well, you can use a plant mister or hairdresser’s spray bottle to easily spray your face and body (back of the neck is really nice!) – try putting the bottle in the fridge for an even cooler effect. Lukewarm baths or showers can also help, and, weirdly, my mum always swore by watering our feet with the garden hose!
- Look after your pets, especially the furry ones, whether big or small. Check that plenty of water is left out for them and they have a shady place to rest. It’s also important to leave a drink out for any garden birds or wildlife who might not be able to find water elsewhere due to the heat. They will thank you for it.
- Coping at home. Keep your curtains or blinds closed, it is so much cooler. There is some debate as to whether you should keep your windows open or shut too. I go with open, and leave internal doors open too, so you can get the benefit of any through-drafts. If your curtains are closed and you live alone, there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t wander round starkers (go for it!), but if you must have clothes on I always try to go for something loose and comfortable, preferably made from a thin cotton fabric. At bedtime, get the plant mister out again and gently spritz your bedding with cold water before sleeping on top of the duvet – trust me, it’s blissful!
- Coping at work. Avoid public transport if you can! I know from bitter experience that the London Underground on a scorchingly hot summer day has a circle of hell all to itself. And I know all too well how much heat is given out by an office full of electronic devices. Turning off non-essential computers, printers, copiers etc may help, but working from home is probably even better…
- EDIT: Look out for wildfires in fields, grasslands, heathland and allotments. They are common in this sort of weather and can cause considerable damage and destruction – the fire that happened in the allotments next to my home a few years back was a frightening experience that came very close to igniting the flats and destroyed a nearby warehouse building in the process. Dial 999 if you see smoke and flames and don’t try to put it out yourself. Let the firefighters take over, they’re bloody good at their job!
Stay safe and stay cool out there, my friends!