Seven ways to cope in hot weather as brutal heatwave hits unprepared UK

From avoiding cold showers to breathing like a lion, 'The National' is here to help you cool down

Sticking to the shade when walking is heatwave best practice. AP
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People in Britain are being advised to take precautions in the face of the searing heatwave which is threatening to exceed the previously untouched 40°C mark.

When the mercury hits some parts of the world at 10 degrees higher, what is the fuss about? The obvious answer is only a minority of homes have air conditioning systems in Britain and other parts of northern Europe. The health ramifications of the current UK heatwave are thus high and concerning.

It's not just the professionals who are concerned. Google Trends provides a useful barometer of Britain's lack of preparedness, with searches for the term “how to cope in a heatwave” increasing by 200 per cent in the last week.

Taking guidance such as sticking to the shade and drinking lots of water as read, here are some valuable pointers.

Seven ways to cope in a heatwave

1. Eat small but frequent meals — with plenty of spice

Eating small amounts but frequently is a concept in the UK more associated with dieting. Yet the principles which underscore its dietary benefits can be applied to staying cool too.

Simply put, the bigger the meal the more energy your body uses to digest it. In heat-sapping conditions, the body is already expending a lot of energy trying to regulate itself, so eating small portions means more energy is conserved for this vital purpose. The need to conserve energy is why humans often have attenuated appetites in hot conditions anyway.

Counter-intuitively, adding spice to the small quantities is also advisable, given its positive physiological effects. Clotting can be a problem in the heat and spice increases circulation. If particularly spicy, the resultant sweats also have a cooling effect on body temperature.


2. Know your outdoors from your indoors

In the mornings and evenings when the air is cooler, it is worth having windows and doors open. In the heat of the day, do the opposite: close portals to the outside and use fans to militate against the risk of the house becoming full of stuffy air.

The UK Met Office advises to “close curtains on rooms that face the sun”.

3. Wear an aubergine hat

Primarily designed to help migraine and headache sufferers, an aubergine hat is coloured like the puce vegetable with a built-in ice pack.

Kept in the freezer it can be whipped out and donned to cool down body temperature in heatwaves — just don't try to make a moussaka with it.

The headache-alleviating aubergine cap can be used to alleviate heatwaves too. Photo :Amazon

4. Take extra naps

An afternoon siesta is a well established part of daily life in many southern European countries which are traditionally hotter — and it's a practice people in the UK should also now consider to allow the body precious time to rest and reboot when the heat is at its zenith.

Given the increased numbers working from home since the onset of coronavirus, beds are also that much more accessible.

5. Avoid cold showers

Somewhat paradoxically, cold showers actually make you warmer as their frigidness causes the body to overcompensate later and produce more heat.

This isn't to say go ahead and jump into a molten shower. Instead, lukewarm ones are far more preferable.

6. Wear loose, bright clothes — and don't be afraid to wet them

Loose, lightweight and bright clothes are best. Choose colours which reflect and don't absorb the sun's rays.

Wearing a damp T-shirt can also have a salving effect on hot skin — and even leaving damp clothes to dry inside is advisable as they will cool down the ambient air.

People sheltering from the sun outside Buckingham Palace in London on Monday: bright clothes advisable, maps as umbrellas less so. Reuters

7. Breathe like a lion

Humans can always learn lessons from nature, and there aren't many creatures on planet more accustomed to dealing with searing heat than zoology's top dog — well cat, to be more precise.

As such, mimicking the way lions breathe is advisable in times of particular heat duress. Just take a deep breath in, and with the mouth wide open and tongue hanging down, exhale deeply. If this practice is to be adopted, it's worth remembering to brush teeth thoroughly.

UK heatwave — in pictures

Updated: July 18, 2022, 2:03 PM