Health experts have shared advice on how to cope as the Met Office warns lives could be at risk during expected record-breaking hot weather.
Temperatures are expected to exceed 37C in parts of the UK, with the Met Office warning of ‘a very serious situation’ as it issued its first red warning for extreme heat.
Britain could be hotter than Delhi and the Sahara Desert on Monday with experts predicting the mercury could reach 41C – double the UK summer average. Peterborough is expected to hit 37C and Milton Keynes, Norwich and Lincoln set to hit 36C – while temperatures could hit 40C in London on Tuesday.
A quick Google search for ‘how to keep cool in a heatwave’ will bring up a range of weird and wonderful measures, including drinking hot tea, eating spicy food, and keeping your curtains closed for the entire day. But do any of these methods actually work?
Ahead of the heatwave, MailOnline has spoken to the experts and delved into the science behind these cooling methods, to help sort the fact from the fiction so you can stay protected during these increasing temperatures:
Drink hot tea
While you might be tempted to reach for a cold drink to help cool you down, surprisingly hot drinks such as teas and coffees may actually be more effective.
A study in 2012 by researchers from the University of Ottawa looked at the effect of drinking hot drinks on body temperature.
The Met Office is warning temperatures could reach 40C in some parts of the UK, with large parts of England set to see their hottest ever day on Tuesday
The results revealed that a hot drink can cool you down – but only in dry conditions.
Speaking to the Smithsonian Mag, Dr Ollie Jay, one of the authors of the study, explained: ‘If you drink a hot drink, it does result in a lower amount of heat stored inside your body, provided the additional sweat that’s produced when you drink the hot drink can evaporate.’
When you ingest a hot drink, you start sweating more. If the sweat can evaporate, it cools you down – more than compensating for the added heat to the body from the fluid.
While sweating can be embarrassing, it’s an essential bodily function to help keep us cool.
As the sweat evaporates from the surface of your skin, it removes excess heat by converting the water from a liquid to a vapour.
While you might be tempted to reach for a cold drink to help cool you down, surprisingly hot drinks such as teas and coffees may actually be more effective (stock image)
However, in humid conditions this cooling effect is less effective, so drinking hot drinks won’t help to cool you down.
Dr Jay explained: ‘On a very hot and humid day, if you’re wearing a lot of clothing, or if you’re having so much sweat that it starts to drip on the ground and doesn’t evaporate from the skin’s surface, then drinking a hot drink is a bad thing.
‘The hot drink still does add a little heat to the body, so if the sweat’s not going to assist in evaporation, go for a cold drink.’
Close your curtains
Australian native Dr Ellie Mackin Roberts took to Twitter to post her go-to methods for keeping cool during the hot summer months.
She advised Britons to ‘close your curtains all the way during the entire day’ to keep rooms in your home in the shade throughout the day.
Australian native Dr Ellie Mackin Roberts took to Twitter to post her go-to methods of keeping cool during the summer months (stock image)
Dr Mackin added: You can open them at night, when you will also (if possible) open your windows the whole way and direct any fans to make a though breeze.’
Concentrate on the crown of your head and feet
Dr Roberts said if you are overheating, ‘concentrate on the crown of your head and your feet. Soak your feet in cold water – as cold as you can stand. Then drink lots of water.’
She tweeted: ‘If you feel you are overheating the two places on your body you need to focus on cooling down quickly (before then dealing properly with the issue!) are the crown of your head and your feet. Soak your feet in cold water – as cold as you can stand. Then drink lots of water.
‘Heatstroke is no joke. Make sure you know the signs of heatstroke (for adults, children, and any pets you have!). In a genuine case of heatstroke, skip the feet and go straight for an icepack to the armpits. Yes seriously.
Eat spicy food
Instead of grabbing an ice cream, you might want to opt for a spicy curry this week.
The ‘burn’ you feel in your mouth from eating spicy food is caused by capsaicin – a chemical found in chillis.
This is usually followed by a similar warming sensation across the rest of hte body, causing you to sweat.
Writing in Scientific American, Yale Professor Barry Green explained: ‘Spicy foods excite the receptors in the skin that normally respond to heat.
The ‘burn’ you feel in your mouth from eating spicy food is caused by capsaicin – a chemical found in chillis. This is usually followed by a similar warming sensation across the rest of hte body, causing you to sweat
‘The central nervous system reacts to whatever the sensory system tells it is going on.
‘Therefore, the pattern of activity from pain and warm nerve fibers triggers both the sensations and the physical reactions of heat, including vasodilation, sweating, and flushing.’
As we saw with drinking hot drinks, sweating is one of the key methods to help regulate your temperature – so tea and curry it is!
Eat gazpacho during the day:
One piece of advice Spanish health authorities are issuing to help people keep cool is to enjoy one of the county’s national dishes, gazpacho.
Gazpacho is a cold soup made of blended raw vegetables. It is a common summer dish in Spain since it is refreshing and cool.
Gazpacho is a cold soup made of blended raw vegetables including tomatoes and cucumbers is a summer staple in Spain and famed for its refreshing qualities
Jesús Aguirre, the health chief for Andalusia — Spain’s most southern region, said it had ‘everything’ people needed to prevent heatstroke.
The soup’s main ingredients are tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.
In addition to rehydrating diners with its high water content, gazpacho also contains high levels of vitamins and minerals.
Lick your wrists
It’s a tactic used by several creatures in the animal kingdom, including kangaroos and monkeys.
And as disgusting as it sounds, licking your wrists also works to help keep humans cool.
The wrists contain pulse points – areas where you can feel your pulse because your blood vessels are close to the surface of your skin.
The Met Office had already this week issued an ‘amber’ heat warning – for only the third time ever – from Sunday to Tuesday for most of England and Wales. But today this was extended to all of England and Wales and southern Scotland – and upgraded to an unprecedented ‘red’ for parts of central and southern England, including London, on Monday and Tuesday
By licking your wrists, you’re using saliva to mimic the effects of sweat, cooling the surface of the skin.
This slows the flow of blood, stopping your body from overheating.
If the idea of licking your wrists doesn’t appeal, you can also pour water on your wrists for a similar effect.
Unplug your chargers
While most of us know that big, powerful electronics like TVs and computers generate a lot of heat, you might not think to unplug smaller applicances.
Lamps, kettles, irons and even chargers can generate a lot of heat if they see heavy use.
In 2020, researchers from ZDNet put a wireless charger to the test, using a thermal camera to study how hot it was, both in and out of use.
They found that when an iPhone 11 Pro Max was placed on the wireless charger, the device reached 32°C, while the surrounding air hit 20°C.
‘If you want the charging to be cooler, remove any cases, don’t charge the phone in direct blazing sunlight, and keep the pad on a hard surface (not on blankets or anything that might block the air holes),’ they advised.
While most of us know that big, powerful electronics like TVs and computers generate a lot of heat, you might not think to unplug smaller applicances like chargers
Ditch the booze
You might be tempted to head for your nearest pub garden during the heatwave, but if you do, try to lay off the booze.
Alcohol is a diuretic that causes you to urinate more, and can leave you severely dehydrated.
‘Alcohol makes us pee more and more frequently, and fluid leaving our bodies at this rate can lead to dehydration if not replaced,’ Drink Aware explains.
‘It is important to replace lost fluid by drinking water if we choose to drink alcohol.
‘The effects of dehydration include feeling thirsty, dizzy, lightheaded and tired, experiencing a dry mouth and lips and dark yellow and strong-smelling pee.’
Alcohol also causes the blood vessels in your skin to dilate, making you feel hotter.
Don’t open all windows
It may sound counterintuitive, but research suggests that you shouldn’t open all the windows to keep your house cool.
Hot air rises, which means sunny upstairs rooms will be warmer than those that are downstairs in the shade – setting up a pressure difference.
By opening windows in these rooms, you can create a strategic breeze that draws in cool air from downstairs, and forces warm air out of the house through the sunny upstairs rooms.
The idea of breathing yourself cooler may sound ridiculous, but seasoned yoga experts swear by a technique called shitali pranayama
Roll your tongue and breathe
The idea of breathing yourself cooler may sound ridiculous, but seasoned yoga experts swear by a technique called shitali pranayama.
Speaking to Live Science, Meera Watts, founder of Siddhi Yoga, explained how the technique can cool your body down within minutes.
‘It starts with sitting in a comfortable position with the back straight and keeping the hands on the knees,’ she explained.
‘Taking out the tongue and folding it on the sides like a U shape. You’ll have to inhale through your tongue in this tube position and exhale with your nostrils.
What are Britain’s ten hottest days on record?
1) 38.7C – July 25, 2019
2) 38.5C – August 10, 2003
3) 37.8C – July 31, 2020
4) 37.1C – August 3, 1990
=5) 36.7C – July 1, 2015
=5) 36.7C – August 9, 1911
7) 36.6C – August 2, 1990
8) 36.5C – July 19, 2006
=9) 36.4C – August 7, 2020
=9) 36.4C – August 6, 2003
To feel the cooling sensation, repeat it 5-8 times which will take no more than a few minutes.’
How can I get to sleep when my bedroom feels like a sauna?
Getting to sleep during a heatwave can seem like an impossible task, particularly when you don’t have access to air conditioning – but there are steps you can take to get a good night’s sleep.
Julie Gooderick, an ‘extreme environments’ expert at the University of Brighton, says it is key to set your environment before sleeping.
The ideal room temperature for sleeping is around 18-21C, she says, and to avoid your bedroom becoming too hot she advises using fans, opening windows at night, and keeping curtains closed during the day.
She also advises using a thin sheet instead of your regular duvet, avoiding napping during the day, and cooling your body down as much as possible – this can be done using cooling pads, a cold shower, or even putting your pyjamas in the freezer a few hours before bedtime.
How can I look after my body?
Extreme hot weather poses the risk of conditions such as heatstroke and heat exhaustion, which can sometimes be fatal. Each year, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) sees excess deaths during periods of extreme hot weather.
Make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids and try to avoid the sun (and physical exertion outdoors) between 11am and 3pm, when the sun is strongest.
The UKHSA advises people to walk in the shade, apply sunscreen regularly, and wear a wide-brimmed hat in the heat, and to make sure fridges and freezers are working properly.
Who is most vulnerable in the heat, and how should I look out for them?
Some people are more vulnerable than others in the heat, particularly those who are aged 75 or older, people with serious health conditions, and those who are unable to keep themselves cool.
Ensure you check in on those who live alone, and be aware of the symptoms of heat exhaustion – these can include dizziness and confusion, a headache and a high temperature.
If you notice someone is experiencing the symptoms of heat exhaustion, they need to be cooled down – make sure they are drinking enough water, lie them down and move them to a cold place if possible.
How should I keep my baby cool in the hot weather?
NHS faces ‘surge’ in demand during heatwave
The NHS is facing a ‘surge’ in demand from the heatwave, amid warnings extreme temperatures next week could cause death, illness and disruption.
An extreme heat warning for much of England and Wales is in place for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, with temperatures likely to peak in excess of 35C (95F) across southern, central and eastern areas of England.
The Met Office warning says the extreme heat could cause health problems across the population, not just among people vulnerable to extreme heat, leading to potential serious illness or danger to life.
People are being urged to stay out of the sun in the middle of the day, stay hydrated, look out for vulnerable people, never leave children or pets in a parked car, and keep curtains closed to keep out the sun.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, urged people to check on older relatives, friends and neighbours to see if they needed anything during the high heat.
‘Any older person who is already coping with significant health issues, especially if they impact their heart or their lungs, is going to find the coming heatwave a challenge,’ she warned.
The Cabinet Office minister Kit Malthouse has said the Government is preparing for a ‘surge’ in demand on the NHS and other services due to the expected heatwave.
After chairing a meeting of the Cobra civil contingencies committee in Whitehall, Mr Malthouse urged the public to look out for people who were particularly vulnerable in the heat.
‘The key thing we can do is prepare the Government services for what may be a surge in demand – not least the health service and elsewhere – but also critically communicate that the first line of defence is actually individual behavioural change,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One.
‘People need to take care, do all the stuff they would do when it is very hot – wear a hat, drink water – but critically also (with) the most vulnerable groups – the elderly, those with cardiovascular problems and the very young – that people look out for them and take care.’
It is essential to avoid babies becoming dehydrated and overexposed to sunlight – regularly apply sunscreen with a protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, and keep their faces cool with a wide-brimmed sun hat.
Babies less than six months old should be kept out of direct sunlight, the NHS says, and older babies should also be kept out of the sun as much as possible.
Sleep consultant and CEO of Just Chill Mama, Rosey Davidson, advises putting bottles of frozen water in front of a fan to achieve ‘a mini air con solution’ to help babies sleep when it is hot outside.
‘You can also hang a wet towel over a chair – pre-freezing this in your freezer helps – the evaporating water cools the air,’ she adds. ‘If it is very hot in your baby’s room they can just sleep in a vest or nappy.’
How can I keep my pets cool?
Not just babies struggle with the heat – pets are also at risk in extreme temperatures.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) advises dog owners to walk their pets in the morning or evening when it is cooler, and to ensure they have enough shade and water.
You can also keep them cool with pet-friendly frozen treats, and pet-safe sun cream is also available.
Never leave pets alone in parked cars, and make sure you are aware of the key signs of heatstroke – symptoms in dogs and cats can include panting, diarrhoea and restlessness.
Should I exercise in the heatwave?
Avoid extreme physical activity during the hottest parts of the day, but there are ways to exercise safely during the heatwave.
Try to do so during the cooler hours – in the early morning or evening – and ensure you take enough water.
Going for a swim can be a good way to cool down, but make sure to do so in safe, lifeguarded sites.
‘People will want to cool down but don’t dive into open water as it’s colder than it looks,’ the London Fire Brigade warns.
‘There is the risk of cold water shock, which can cause your body to go into shock no matter how fit you are.’
What are the best ways to stay safe?
People should avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm, when it’s at its hottest and UV light is strongest, to stay cool and avoid sunburn.
Walking in the shade and wearing a wide-brimmed hat can also reduce the risk of overheating.
Taking a bottle of water and putting on sun cream when venturing outdoors will also protect against the sun’s effect.
Those at home can keep temperatures lower by closing the curtains in rooms that face the sun. But they may want to venture outside if they find its hotter indoors.
Drinking plenty of fluids is essential to stay hydrated and cool in a heatwave.
But people are advised to avoid alcohol, which raises body temperature, making it more likely a person will sweat and become dehydrated. This is on top of the dehydration alcohol triggers by making drinkers urinate more.
People sunbathe at the West Reservoir in London today ahead of what are predicted to be two of the warmest days on record
People should steer clear of sitting in a closed, parked vehicle, which can quickly overheat. And others, especially babies, children and animals, should not be left in a vehicle.
Britons are also warned against exercising in the hottest part of the day. Early in the morning is the coolest time of day for outdoor activity.
While dipping into open water may seem tempting, people are warned to take care and follow local safety advice.
How can hot weather be deadly?
Heatwaves kill up to 2,000 people in the UK each summer.
Hot weather can cause dehydration, which causes blood to thicken. It also lowers blood pressure, making it harder to push blood around the body. This can lead to blood clots and strokes.
And overheating can make symptoms worse for those with heart and breathing problems – which can become fatal.
Margate beach in Kent was packed today as thousands of people made their way to the coast to enjoy the glorious sunshine before temperatures skyrocket on Monday and Tuesday
There is also a higher risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, especially if exercising outdoors when it’s hot. This is caused by not drinking enough and losing fluids through sweat.
Studies have also found accidents and injuries, such as from car crashes, are higher worldwide during hot spells.
Experts believe this is because heat can interfere with thinking, making mistakes more likely.
Why does our body react to hot weather?
The body works to maintain an internal temperature of 37C, on average, which is needed to regulate bodily functions.
As the temperature outside gets hotter, so does our internal temperature.
This means the body has to work harder to maintain its usual level and its thermoregulation system kicks in, which triggers sweat. This then evaporates from the skin, which helps the body cool down.
But sweating too much and not replenishing the body with fluid can cause dehydration, which can lead to heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
What are the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke and how can I cool down?
Heat exhaustion occurs when the temperature inside the body rises from the normal 37C and gets up to 40C.
This causes the levels of water and salt in the body to fall, which can cause a person to feel sick, light-headed and sweat heavily.
BBC meteorologist Simon King said parts of the East Midlands could see temperatures of up to 107.6F (42C) at the peak of the heatwave on Tuesday
At this stage, a person can cool themselves down by going to a cool place, drinking water and removing excess clothes. They should start feeling better within 30 minutes.
However, is a person does not cool down within 30 minutes, heat exhaustion becomes heatstroke, which is much more serious.
Heatstroke happens when the body can no longer bring its temperature down, causing cells to break down and important parts of the body to stop working.
Symptoms include mental confusion, rapid shallow breathing and loss of consciousness. If left untreated, it can lead to organ failure, brain damage and death.
Britons are told to call an ambulance if they suspect they or someone else is having a heatstroke, get to a cool place, remove excess clothing and drink cool water.
Heatwave helpers for HOT DOGS! RACHEL HALLIWELL explains how we can look after pooches during the high temperatures
Oh boy, the heat is on with temperatures reported to reach 41c (106f) today and tomorrow. Just as we are sweltering, so, too, are our poor hot and bothered pooches.
My own dog, three-year-old Buddy the cockapoo, hates hot weather and can be found sensibly snoozing his way through the current heatwave, lying prostrate under the table on our cold, stone kitchen floor.
Wise boy. Overheating poses a serious health risk to dogs. They can suffer heatstroke which can cause permanent damage to their vital organs. Humans rely on sweating to regulate their temperature, but dogs don’t have that mechanism.
They pant instead, which cools them down.But during a heatwave as extreme as the one we’re enduring, panting may not be enough. In which case, we, their doting owners, need to step in and help.
Temperatures in the UK are reported to reach 41c (106f) today and tomorrow, so Rachel Halliwell and her dog Buddy (pictured) have been trying out products which cool your dog down in a heatwave
With a third of UK homes having at least one canine companion, that equates to an awful lot of worried pet lovers trying to cool down their hot dogs.
But fear not. As you would expect from the £10billion-ayear dog industry, there are plenty of products on the market to help. Buddy and I put them to the test…
THE COOL COAT
Petface Cooling Dog Coat (£8.50, Argos)
Petface Cooling Dog Coat (£8.50, Argos). Rachel awarded this full marks saying not only does this keep Buddy cool, he looks pretty cute in it, too
Adding clothing to an already hot animal seems counter-intuitive, but this jacket is chilled. It’s easy to prepare — just place it into a bowl of cold water before kneading it to help it absorb the liquid. Then you wring it out and slip it on to your dog’s back.
In winter, Buddy refuses to wear his coat, so I’m surprised when he stands still as I settle this on to him then fasten it in place. Poor boy is hot.
It must give him relief because he doesn’t attempt to shake it off, and is soon back under the table, the jacket clearly comfortable to wear because he goes straight back to sleep.
VERDICT: Full marks. Not only does this keep Buddy cool, he looks pretty cute in it, too. 5/5
COLD MAT FOR MUTTS
Sunny Daze Cooling Mat (£16, Pets at Home)
Sunny Daze Cooling Mat (£16, Pets at Home). The only issue for Rachel is that you can’t leave a dog with it unattended in case they chew through the material
It’s not just hot days you need to worry about during a heatwave. After the sun goes down, temperatures are staying so high our homes can’t cool down — that means little respite for us or our pets at night.
During the day, Buddy hasn’t shown much interest in this cooling mat, which is filled with a non-toxic gel that automatically cools under the weight of your dog.
But when I lay it down next to my bed on a particularly hot night, he lies straight down on it. It must provide some blessed relief because I notice his panting eases a little.
The only issue is that you can’t leave a dog with it unattended in case they chew through the material. And not everyone’s as tolerant as my husband about sharing their bedroom with their besotted wife’s mutt.
VERDICT: Good for cooling down your pooch after you’ve been out for a walk, too. 4/5
Whitedrop Pet Water Fountain Dispenser (left, £19.99, amazon.co.uk)
Whitedrop Pet Water Fountain Dispenser (left, £19.99, amazon.co.uk). This is gimmicky, and much more expensive than a plain old water bowl
Preferring to drink from dirty ditches and muddy puddles, Buddy approaches most drinking vessels with great suspicion.
This cute water fountain, which filters then pumps fresh water out of a daisy-shaped spout, gets the same treatment.
He has a sniff, walks away, comes back for another sniff, then off he goes again.
This goes on for ten minutes until the cat appears and drinks so deeply from this fountain you’d have thought it had always been there. Wherever she leads, Buddy follows. A couple of tentative licks, then he’s soon lapping away.
This is gimmicky, and much more expensive than a plain old water bowl – but it will help keep my fussy boy hydrated.
VERDICT: A costly watering hole. 3/10
Sunny Daze Dog Paddling Pool (£35, Pets At Home)
Sunny Daze Dog Paddling Pool (£35, Pets At Home). Rachel says this is great but feels guilty filling it up with a hose pipe
Anyone who has a cockapoo like Buddy will know how water-obsessed this breed is. It might be boiling outside, but my dog thinks Christmas has come early, because suddenly he’s got his own pond installed in the back garden and no one is yelling at him to get out of it. He jumps in and out before shaking himself off and diving straight back in again. This is the happiest I’ve seen him since the heatwave began.
This is a pop-up pool, so easy to set up and take down again to store. My teenage daughter, however, is unimpressed — her attempts to sunbathe before the gloomy weather returns are hampered by Buddy clambering soggily all over her. Small price to pay for a happy dog, I tell her.
VERDICT: Great product, but it loses a mark because it needs filling with a hosepipe, which I feel guilty about when our reservoir levels are so low. 4/5
AND DON’T FORGET SPF!
Petkin SPF15 Doggy Sunmist spray (below, amazon.co.uk, £6.07)
Petkin SPF15 Doggy Sunmist spray (below, amazon.co.uk, £6.07). According to Rachel this is probably more useful for dogs with short hair
Spraying sun screen on a dog is a new one on me. This doggy version, which the label says compares to SPF15 for humans, smells like the stuff I spray on myself and is the same milkywhite consistency.
The instructions recommend using on your dog’s ears, nose, muzzle and any pink areas, all of which are especially vulnerable to sunburn. Buddy has other ideas, running off in fright after the first spray of his nose. But it’s a different story when I put it on his belly — he lies, legs akimbo, while I rub it in, like a pampered pet who’s enjoying a tummy massage.
Buddy likes to lie on his back on the patio, enjoying the sun on his belly, so applying this could be a good idea. But I think it’ll be more useful for dogs with short, thin hair.
VERDICT: Rubbing it in your hands first, rather than spraying is less scary for a dog. 2/5