Europe’s weather forecast has made for alarming reading for weeks now, with the mercury tipping over 40C even in northern countries.
In case we were in any doubt that these blistering temperatures are a result of global warming, meteorologists note that Spain and Portugal 7C hotter than normal for this time of year – reaching a potential 47C in Seville.
The UK’s current (2019) record of 38.7C will probably be history by early next week. If we have any hope of staying the creep of punishing degrees across the world immediate climate action is needed.
There are so many ways to tackle the climate crisis, the best ones collectively. But in the very short term, ‘beating the heat’ looks a lot like keeping ourselves cool and collected – through measures that don’t exacerbate our consumption of fossil fuels.
Staying hydrated is critical – just in case no-one’s told you in the last hour. Here are some more cheap tips from the Euronews Green team for keeping cool at home.
1. Understand how heat affects the body
Environmental factors such as weather and internal body heat resulting from metabolic processes both contribute to how the body is heated. When the body becomes hot, your bodytemperature can increase your heart rate and blood flow to the skin because blood vessels dilate to increase sweating.
“Heat mostly dehydrates you and warms up your core temperature. When you are outside in the heat, gradually over time, the body will lose moisture and warm up, which accelerates [the dehydration] process,” Dr. Jen Brull, family physician and board member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, told Healthline.
When the body is unable to regulate its temperature due to extreme heat, this can cause illness, including heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and hyperthermia, states WHO.
2. Plan ahead
Brull said planning ahead can often help people avoid heat-related illnesses. Before heading out in the heat, she said to think about and research the following:
- What will the temperature be?
- How long will I be outside in the heat?
- Will there be shade from the sun?
“[Look] at weather-enabled apps or web pages to see what the temperature will be and will there be precipitation or cloud coverage and what the heat index is,” Brull said.
3. Seek out shade and protection
If you plan to be outside for a while, ensure there is a place that provides shade, such as trees or a covered picnic area. Best of all, if there is a building with air conditioning, plan set times to step inside for a bit.
“Remember shade doesn’t need to be from a physical structure. Wearing a hat or carrying an umbrella both provide local shade for the person who has them,” said Brull.
Wearing light colors rather than dark colors can keep you cooler, too, because dark colors will warm you up.
“In the winter, it’s great to wear dark colors, they help the sun get to you and keep you warm. In the summer, it’s the opposite. You want to wear light colors to reflect the sun and keep you cooler,” Brull explained.
However, note that if your goal is to wear clothing that protects your skin from harmful UV radiation, the Skin Cancer Foundation states that dark or bright colors keep rays from penetrating through clothes and reaching your skin more effectively than lighter shades.
And while sunscreen won’t protect you from heat exhaustion, Brull said it’s good to wear sunscreen to avoid sunburn. A sunburn “will make the process of recovering from heat longer and slower.”
4. Stay hydrated
Hydrating helps the body keep a normal temperature and when you sweat, drinking water replaces the fluid volumes you’re losing while cooling down your body from the inside out. In addition to water, Brull said drinks that include electrolytes can help with dehydration.
While in the heat, she said to avoid drinks that have caffeine or alcohol, which cause dehydration.
“Alcohol causes problems because it inhibits your ability to recognize how hot you are and accelerates the process of dehydration,” said Brull.
Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following ways to ensure you drink water:
- Keep a water bottle with you at all times.
- Freeze a freezer-safe water bottle and carry it with you.
- Add lime or lemon to your water to improve the taste.
5. Exercise with caution
If you’re engaging in activity like hiking or playing a sport in the heat, Dr. Alexis Colvin, an orthopedic surgeon at Mount Sinai, said to make sure you drink water before you are physical, as well as during and after exercise.
“When the activity is less than 1 hour, water is the ideal drink. After 1 hour, drinking fluids that contain both carbohydrates and sodium can replenish lost glucose and electrolytes,” she told Healthline.
Before exercising in the heat, she suggested establishing a baseline level of fitness while in a cooler environment.
“Second, gradually increase the hours and days of activity in the hotter climate over several weeks. Make sure to take frequent breaks and to have cooling methods available such as ice towels,” said Colvin.
Additionally, limit sun exposure and stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you must be outside during those times, take precautions to prevent sun exposure by reapplying sunscreen, and dressing appropriately with a hat, sunglasses, and proper clothing.
“Also be sure to take frequent breaks,” Colvin said.
6. Do your meal prep earlier in the day
It’s common sense that anything that generates heat is going to bring up the overall heat of your home. Intuitively, you’re going to find a hairdryer less desirable (not least because wet hair is a balm on days like today).
But one place in which it helps to rethink your daily activities is in the kitchen. A nutritious salad is more likely to hit the spot on a hot day, but if you are still needing to use the oven, how about prepping food earlier in the day?
7. Stay cool as a Intuitively (drink)
Drinking enough water really bears repeating – especially as frequency over volume is a key message from health bodies. But there are a whole range of other refreshing drinks to quench your thirst.
A cold or hot mint brew is great for cooling you down, as the natural menthol stimulates cool receptors in the body. It’s also a very low maintenance herb to grow on a windowsill or patch of back garden.
Euronews Green video producer Hannah swears by a slice of cucumber in your water, which makes the drink taste refreshing even when it warms up.