21 Jul How to stay healthy in the heat
By Hannah Buckland, Healthy Hearts Care Planner
In case you hadn’t noticed, summer has finally arrived in the UK, and it is HOT! Temperatures are reaching 30°C in some areas, causing the Met Office to issue an extreme heat warning for parts of the UK. Whilst we might be rejoicing at the long-awaited sunny weather, this prolonged period of heat has the potential to impact on people’s health, including causing heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses. We have developed some top tips for how to stay healthy in the heat.
Drink plenty of water
We cannot stress enough how important it is to stay hydrated in this heat. Drink plenty of water even if you do not feel thirsty. You can check you are drinking enough by checking the colour of your wee – if it is pale then you are well hydrated. Keep your fridge well-stocked with cold water and ice and take a bottle with you if you head outside. Avoid alcoholic, caffeinated, or sugary drinks, as these can make dehydration worse.
The sun is at its hottest between 11 am and 3 pm, so stay in the shade during these times if you can. If you must be in the sun, wear a hat and apply sunscreen (at least factor 30) to protect your skin. Wear light-coloured, loose-fitting clothes. You can cool your body down by taking a cold shower, putting your feet in cool water, or putting wet towels on your arms or neck. Keep your house cool by shutting curtains and blinds and opening your windows at night to let cooler air in if you can. Avoid using your stove and oven, as these will increase the temperature in your home.
Exercise doesn’t have to cease during hot weather; however, it is important to exercise sensibly and safely. Plan to exercise when temperatures are lower, for example early in the morning or late at night, to avoid the midday heat. Exercise in the shade rather than in the sun if you can. Keep your head cool by wearing a cap – you can even soak this in water if you want to stay really cool. Remember that you will likely sweat more than usual, so you will need to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
Although it is fine to exercise in the heat, it is best to avoid extreme exercise. Don’t be afraid to lower the intensity of your exercise regime – exercise is good for you, but not at the expense of getting heatstroke! If you feel faint and/or sick, stop exercising straight away, sit in the shade and drink plenty of water.
Keep your food safe and eat to keep cool and hydrated
Food safety is more important than ever during the heat. Ensure that any foods that need refrigeration are stored in the fridge. Defrost foods in the fridge rather than on the countertop.
You may also wish to adjust your diet during hot weather. Have you ever noticed that your appetite tends to be reduced in the heat? This is because your body regulates its temperature by cutting down on processes that generate heat, such as the digestion of food. Try to eat smaller cold meals, such as salads, and be aware that foods that are harder to digest, such as those high in protein and fibre, will generate more body heat. Food can also help contribute to your fluid intake, so choose foods that have a high fluid content, such as cucumber, courgettes, celery, lettuce, and melon. Likewise, recipes with high fluid content such as soups, stews and porridge can help keep you hydrated – even if they may not seem that appealing in the heat!
Check in with others
Check in with elderly friends, relatives or neighbours to see how they are doing and if they need any assistance. Make sure they are drinking plenty of water and staying cool. Share the above tips to help them manage the heat.
Hopefully, these tips will prove helpful over the next few days, and for the rest of the summer. If you do start to feel unwell with a high temperature during hot weather, it may be heat exhaustion or heatstroke. Check the NHS website to find out more about the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and when to seek help: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heat-exhaustion-heatstroke/. Stay safe and healthy in the sun this summer!
BBC Good Food (2021). How to eat in a heatwave. BBC Good Food. Available from: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/how-eat-heatwave [Accessed 20th July 2021].
BBC News (2021). Met Office issues first UK extreme heat warning. BBC News. Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-57893385 [Accessed 20th July 2021].
NHS (2019). Heatwave: How to cope in hot weather. NHS. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/heatwave-how-to-cope-in-hot-weather/ [Accessed 20th July 2021].
NHS (2019). Sunscreen and sun safety. NHS. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/sunscreen-and-sun-safety/ [Accessed 20th July 2021].
NSW Government (2019). How to stay healthy in the heat. NSW Government. Available from: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/beattheheat/Pages/stay-healthy-in-heat.aspx [Accessed 20th July 2021].