Heat waves are usually something we hear about occurring in the South East of the country, but this time we will see it extending well into the North of England as well, and the Met Office has issued the first “Red Extreme Heat National Severe Weather Warning” for Monday and Tuesday this week (18 and 19 July). In the North West we will see temperatures rise well over 30 degrees Celsius in Cheshire, Greater Manchester, South and West Lancashire and Eastern parts of Merseyside, whereas Cumbria and most areas close to sea and the Estuaries will remain a few degrees cooler than that.
I like the heat. I suspect many of us do. But while we may enjoy high temperatures in holiday resorts, with a pool or a beach nearby, wearing minimal clothing, a cool drink next to us, no work to be done and an apartment or hotel room with air-conditioning, similar temperatures in the UK are quite something different.
So we need to adjust our lifestyle for the coming week or so, when temperatures are set to rise about 35°C in large parts of the country.
Keeping ourselves and other people safe
For ourselves and our fellow human beings, a few things are very important:
- Drink a lot! Any fluid and ice cubes in cool drinks will help. Remember coffee (caffeine) is a mild diuretic and alcohol can cause dehydration the best of times, so don’t overdo it with those beverages.
- When leaving food out, to defrost for instance, don’t leave it in the heat as it will go off quickly. It is better to defrost food in the fridge so it will be safe to use. If you leave it out to ‘nibble’, make sure it is covered so flying insects can’t get to it.
- If you have air-conditioning, use it. But to be effective the windows have to be closed, otherwise the cold air that is produced just goes outside and you’re cooling the street rather than your room. Having no air-conditioning, it is useful to open all the windows very early in the morning to air out when it is still reasonably cool outside. When the sun starts to heat up the air, close all windows and draw the curtains to keep the rooms as cool as possible over the day.
- Use fans – they can help dry sweat and remove body heat, and especially aiming a fan at your feet or at your face can help cool you down.
- If you know any people who are vulnerable, check in on them. People who are disabled, old, or have mental health problems ̶ they may not be able to grab an extra glass of water, or put up a parasol, or they may not realise it is better to do so. Check on them, advise and help them.
- If you have to work, ask if any work uniform can be changed to smart but cooler clothes. Employers have a Health and Safety duty towards their employees.
- A paddling pool can be great especially for youngsters, to play in and stay cool. Don’t forget to place a parasol over it — to slow down the sun heating up the water and protect the children from the UV rays, and to move the parasol during the day as the sun changes position.
- Exercise is healthy of course, but not when it is this hot! If you do want to exercise, pick a time when the sun is not too bright, drink lots of water before and during, and don’t overdo it.
- There are special cooling inserts for pillows that can help them stay cooler at night (similar to cool mats for pets).
- If you don’t need to go out in the sun, don’t.
- And if you do go out: wear sunblock. It won’t help you feel cooler, but you will need a factor 50+ to protect your skin from the damage UV-rays can do, and apply it generously and often. Remember last years’ factor 50 will have lost half its protective value by now.
- In the garden: sit in the shade, move yourself or the parasol regularly so you are constantly protected.
Going for a drive in the car
Great of course. But: the interior of a car can heat up very quickly if the sun is on it or the outside temperature is high. When driving you will be tempted to keep the windows open. If you have pets or small children in the car, have them wear a harness attached to the seat belt buckle, so they can’t fly out of the window! Open the windows far enough to allow air to come in, and so heat can get out, but not so far that their hands (children) paws or head (pets) can get out.
And if you leave the car, under no circumstances leave a passenger in the car on their own, especially not one who can’t get out of the car if it gets too hot. Remember the car is a metal box and will heat up very quickly! Heatstroke can set in soon for babies or pets, and they can have serious long-term organ damage or even die if this happens. It doesn’t take long!!
After having made sure that the children and all the elderly are fine, do not forget to look after your pets as well when it is this hot:
Remember your pet’s health and skin
We use Factor 50 to protect our skin, but what about our pets? We have bred them so their natural protection from the weather is far less than optimal, with white ears and nose, or sometimes even with almost no fur. They also need protecting. White cats are notorious for developing skin cancer on their ear tips later in life if they have spent a lot of time outside. There is special pet-safe protection available, use it!
Pets need help coping with the hot weather, here are some more tips to help:
- Do not take them for walks when it is hot. Stand with bare feet on the pavement or asphalt for a few minutes first to check if it is bearable. If it hurts, don’t subject your pet to that!
- Walkies? No. Dogs especially are keen to keep up with their owners, and we will wear loose fitting clothes, shorts and tops, but our pets still have a fur coat. And especially if they are brachycephalic (short face, bulldogs, pugs, boxers and that type), they will not be able to breathe well enough to keep their body cool, and heatstroke can set in and kill them quickly. Walks before the sun comes up or after it has gone down are best, and nothing strenuous on these hot days.
- Indoors pets can benefit from cool mats strategically placed where they like to lie, extra bowls with drinking water to tempt them to drink more (like some people, elderly pets may not realise they need to drink more in hot weather) and make sure you change the water often so it is cool and fresh.
- Put wet towels over them if they seem to be heating up more than they should, they can cool them down again.
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