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Beat the heat – tips for the heatwave

With the heatwave expected to stay with us for some time, reaching its peak on 18 July, Dr Neil Maxwell, Reader in the School of Sport and Health Sciences, has provided some simple tips for coping with the heat. 

“A lot of it is common sense,” he said, “but it is always good to be reminded.”

1. Start cool, stay cool 🥶

  • Have a cool shower in the morning to start the day.
  • Keep cool inside (keep ice pops, ice slurries or iced drinks on hand).
  • Keep cool outside using handheld fans or by holding ice packs or placing ice towels round your neck. Take off your shoes and stand on a cold floor or in cold water.
  • Submerge your hands and wrists into cold water.

2. Seek shade 😎

Keep out of direct sunlight (and wear a hat), and avoid sitting in cars and closed spaces with little air flow.

3. Drink regularly 🥤

Drink water (not alcohol or caffeine) more than normal – have a bottle with you everywhere you go. Remember, your nose knows – if your wee smells you are dehydrated!

4. Clothes matter 👕

Wear less (single layer), loose (breathable fabrics) and light (reflective colours).

5. Slow down 🐌

Use energy wisely and try not to exert yourself more than you need. If exercising, choose earlier or later in the day and lower the intensity – you need to lower your expectations of what you can achieve.

6. Be heat aware 🔎

Look after yourself, older people and the young, who cannot pick up the cues of how hot or thirsty they are.

7. Plan ahead 🗒️

Think about your day and what you can do to avoid the sun or prevent yourself overheating. What three things will work for you?

8. Cool house 🏠

Know how to keep your home cool: close blinds during the day to block the heat from getting in and close doors to rooms you are not using to keep cold air where you need it most. In the evening, as the temperature cools, open up the house to cool your home naturally – but still lock up overnight!

9. Eat cool food 🍉

There are many food types that contain large quantities of water that could help maintain hydration status alongside what you drink.

Fruit and vegetables to keep you cool

10. Be heat illness aware 🚑

It is important to identify the signs and symptoms of minor heat illnesses because this can prevent the onset of the life-threatening condition of heatstroke.

Chart showing symptoms and dangers of over-heating

Dr Maxwell added: “My top tip is to encourage you to stock up on ice pops – they cool from the inside out and outside in all at the same time!”

Dr Maxwell and Professor Nick Webborn have also written four Beat the Heat user-friendly guides, with help from Dr Mark Hayes, for the International Paralympic Committee in 2020 leading up to the Tokyo Paralympic Games.

“I think they would be useful to share with friends and family and to pick and choose, much like a pick’n’mix, what strategies would work for you,” Dr Maxwell said. “Although they are written for athletes, much is relevant. They are very visual and intended to be accessible. Three of them – keeping cool, staying hydrated, and signs and symptoms of heat illness – would especially help.”


Robin Coleman • 13 July 2022

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