As temperatures soar due to “climate change“, protecting ourselves from heatstroke and heat exhaustion becomes ever more important. With high temperatures posing potentially life-threatening dangers, understanding how to cope with soaring mercury levels is a skill that can save lives.
In this article, we provide essential tips to beat the heat and stay safe this summer.
Avoid Going Out In The Sun During The Hottest Hours
Ideally, it’s best to stay out of the sun altogether during periods of extreme temperatures but that’s not always practical or possible. The next best alternative is to avoid going out in the sun during peak sun hours of 11 am to 3 pm. The sun is the strongest during these hours, which increases the risk of sunstroke considerably.
As much as possible, try and limit your outdoor activities to early mornings and late evenings, when the sun’s rays are not as strong. If you can’t avoid going out during the peak afternoon hours, try and stay in the shade so you’re at least partially protected.
The importance of staying hydrated cannot be overemphasized. The heat itself draws fluids from your body. You lose even more as you perspire through the steamy summer days. Dehydration can set in very quickly if you don’t replace the fluids you’ve lost.
Make it a habit to drink water regularly throughout the day. Carry a bottle of water everywhere you go. The last thing you want is to look for water when dehydration has already set in. While flavoured waters and isotonic sports drinks are an acceptable alternative to water, avoid fizzy sugar-laden drinks that don’t do anything to overcome dehydration and can cause other problems instead.
Splash Water Over Your Body To Cool Down
Rising temperatures can cause you to feel distinctly uncomfortable and creates a dangerous cycle of overheating. Cooling your skin down with water can help tremendously. This is because heat escapes through the skin. When you wet your skin, it helps speed up the heat loss so you cool down faster.
The quickest and most effective way to do this is by splashing your head and torso with cool water. That’s not practical for everyone though. An alternative that works just as well is to put your hands and feet in cold water.
Dress Appropriately For The Weather
Hot summer days call for lightweight, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing in natural fabrics such as cotton or muslin. Keeping your arms and legs covered will keep your skin better protected against the direct rays of the sun.
Definitely consider wearing a wide-brimmed hat when heading out in the sun. It is probably the most effective way to reduce exposure to your eyes, head, face, and neck.
Limit Physical Activity To Cooler Times Of The Day
Some physical activity every day is important and you don’t want to give that up completely. On the other hand, you don’t want to stick to your routine rigidly. It’s important to take the temperature into consideration when scheduling any outdoor activity, including your workouts and other activities like gardening. Exercising or gardening in the midday sun can be dangerous as it increases the risk of dehydration and heatstroke.
The longer days make it easier to keep your workout for early morning or late evening. Make sure to take frequent breaks and drink plenty of water during long workout sessions to avoid putting excessive stress on your body.
Keep Your Home Cool
There are several little things you can do to keep your home cool even when it is blazing hot outside.
If the sun streams in through your windows for the most part of the day, putting up thick light-coloured drapes can help block the sunlight and keep the heat out. Avoid metallic blinds and dark curtains, which will only heat up the house even more. Bamboo blinds will keep the room much cooler.
Close all windows by mid-morning and open them only after the sun has set. Leave them open all night if you can. This is one of the best ways to keep the heat out during the day and let the cool evening breeze waft through the rooms and cool the house down through the night.
Limit Your Alcohol And Caffeine Intake
Both, alcohol and caffeine, can be extremely dehydrating. This can put extra stress on your body when it is already struggling to cope with the heat and dehydration. Excessive alcohol or caffeine combined with high heat can make for a dangerous combination.
Eat Foods With High Water Content
Eating foods with high water content can complement your efforts to stay hydrated. Foods such as cucumber, celery, strawberries, watermelon and lettuce will help you stay cool and hydrated. In the summer, salads or a cold gazpacho soup are a healthier alternative to spicy curries or heavy stews.
What To Do In Case Of A Heatstroke
In extremely hot weather, knowing what to do in case of heatstroke can literally be a lifesaver.
Headaches, dry mouth, dizziness and confusion are all signs that you are at high risk of dehydration. It’s important not to ignore these symptoms and take these steps immediately.
- Drink fluids. Start by drinking water or other rehydration fluids. Sip small amounts of water frequently rather than gulping down large quantities at once, as this can lead to discomfort. You can also consider rehydration solutions or sports drinks that contain electrolytes to help restore the body’s electrolyte balance.
- Rest in a cool place. Find a cool, shaded area or an air-conditioned room to rest and lower your body temperature.
- Cool compresses. Apply a cool, damp cloth or flannel to your forehead, neck, and wrists to help cool your body down. Alternatively, you can take a cool shower or bath to help lower your body temperature.
- Loosen clothing. If possible, loosen or remove any tight or unnecessary clothing which will allow your body to cool more efficiently.
- Avoid excessive physical activities. Steer clear of any strenuous physical activities until you have fully rehydrated. Overexertion can worsen dehydration and increase the risk of heat-related illnesses.
- Monitor your symptoms. Pay attention to any severe or persistent symptoms such as dizziness, confusion, rapid heartbeat, or extremely dark urine. These may indicate severe dehydration, and it’s important to seek medical attention if these symptoms persist or get worse.
- Seek medical attention (if needed). If you are unable to rehydrate adequately, experience severe symptoms, or if symptoms persist despite your best efforts, it’s important you seek medical attention asap. Severe dehydration may require intravenous fluids or further medical intervention.
As we navigate the effects of climate change and brace ourselves for further warnings of increasingly high summer temperatures, it’s important to prioritise our well-being and understand how to protect ourselves from the risks of heat-related illnesses. By following the practical tips and guidance provided in this article, hopefully, you can equip yourself with the knowledge needed to enjoy a safe and wonderful British summer.