Staying cool in summer: Top tips to keep cool in hot weather
Last updated 8 September 2023
Heatwaves are happening around the world. And climate change means they're getting hotter and longer. Here's how to stay cool in the heat.
While basking in the sunshine is a wonderful thing, extreme heat can be deadly, affecting younger and older people, pregnant women, and those with chronic health conditions.
But there's a lot we can do to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the heat.
1. Be sun smart
It's best to avoid going out during the hottest hours of the day, but sometimes that can't be avoided. When out in direct sunlight remember:
- Wear (and regularly reapply) sunscreen.
- Cover your head with a hat.
- Take regular breaks indoors or in a shady area to avoid getting heat exhaustion or heatstroke.
- Wearing light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing will also help you to stay cool.
2. Wetter is better
Heat escapes through the skin, which is the largest organ in the body. So, the more skin you can cool down, the better.
There are various methods for how to cool your skin down in baking hot weather:
- Drenching a t-shirt and keeping it wet can be very effective.
- Buy cooling spray.
- Having a cool shower - not freezing as you should cool down slowly.
You can quickly cool yourself down by putting your hands and feet in cold water. Wrists and ankles have lots of pulse points where blood vessels are close to the skin, so you will cool down more quickly.
3. Drink plenty of water
In hot weather, it's important to avoid caffeine and make sure you're drinking lots of water. If possible, drink isotonic sports drinks to replenish the lost salts, sugars, and fluids.
Both cool and hot drinks will work to keep your core temperature at the same temperature. Consuming hot drinks will not cool you down more effectively than cold drinks. In the heat, you should avoid drinks containing caffeine, including tea and coffee, it's typically best to stick to water.
As you sweat throughout the day, the liquids you are losing need to be replaced to avoid dehydration.
Symptoms of dehydration include:
- a dry mouth
- dizziness or confusion
If untreated, dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion. If the person’s condition gets worse, you should call 999 for emergency help.
4. Limit your alcohol
The sun is high, and so are many people's spirits. And that can lead us to the pub.
Unfortunately, mixing too much sun with a few too many drinks is not a good combination.
Alcohol causes dehydration, which can hit especially hard if your body is already struggling to stay cool in the summer. Drinking alcohol can also make it harder to get a good night's sleep, something that's already difficult in warmer temperatures.
While you may fall asleep quickly, you're likely to have poor-quality sleep and wake up earlier than usual - not exactly the refreshing sleep you'll need. Try to drink in moderation and read more advice on how to keep cool at night during a heatwave.
5. Eat light meals to feel cooler
When it's hot, you are far better off sticking to light, well-balanced, regular meals. Food with a high water content like strawberries, cucumber, celery, and lettuce, will also help to keep you hydrated and cool in summer weather.
You can also try foods with high fluid content like soups and stews that contribute towards hydration levels.
6. Limit physical activity to cooler parts of the day
It's important not to disrupt your routine too much because of hot weather, but sometimes you may have to. An early morning run may feel punishing when you're nice and sleepy in bed, but it could be dangerous to exercise in the blazing midday sun and risk dehydration, heat exhaustion, or heatstroke.
Take the temperature into consideration when planning your day and, if you can, limit physical activity to when it's cooler. If you do decide to workout or play sport, , make sure to drink lots of water and take more breaks than usual to make sure you're not putting any extra stress on your body.
You should also make sure you take a cold shower after exercising to cool down and follow our other advice for staying cool throughout the day.
7. Keep your home cool
During the hot weather, it’s important to make your home a place you can escape to out of the heat, so keeping it cool is key to feeling comfortable. When temperatures reach heatwave levels this can be more challenging than you may realise and it's not as easy as just opening a window.
Keeping your house cool is especially important at night. During a heatwave temperatures often stay high even at night making it difficult to get a good night's sleep. While it affects everyone in areas affected by a heatwave, people living in high-rise buildings and in urban areas may particularly struggle with this problem. Make sure you're taking steps to keep your home cool and sleeping during a heatwave by following our advice.
8. Know the risks
The heat can have a serious effect on your physical health, and especially during a heatwave, it's important to look out for signs of heatstroke and heat exhaustion. Many people believe that heat exhaustion and heatstroke are the same things, but heatstroke is potentially far more serious.
Heat exhaustion is caused when the body loses excess water, salt, and sugars through sweating. It can be treated by having plenty to drink, keeping out of the sun, and knowing how to cool down.
Heat stroke occurs when the body's temperature becomes dangerously high and the body is no longer able to cool itself. Symptoms include confusion, headache, nausea, and muscle cramps.
Another symptom is paler skin than normal - depending on your skin tone this could mean your skin looks ashen, grey, or a more yellowish hue. It might be easier to notice this change in colour on the palms of hands, nails, or eyes, gums, and tongue.
Heatstroke can develop with little warning and quickly lead to a person becoming unresponsive. It's vital to cool them down as quickly as possible by wrapping them in a wet sheet of clothing and dialing 999.
Babies and children are more vulnerable to increasing temperatures, so stay informed and follow our guidance on how to keep a baby cool in the heat.
Learn first aid advice for someone with heatstroke or heat exhaustion with our online resources.
- First aid for someone with heat stroke: symptoms and signs
- First aid for someone with heat exhaustion: symptoms and signs
- First aid for a child or baby with heat exhaustion: symptoms and signs
Staying cool and safe in a heatwave
The UK is getting hotter and as a result of climate change, heatwaves are becoming more frequent and extreme. Hot weather puts people's health and wellbeing at risk and knowing how to keep cool in a heatwave is essential. Make sure you're prepared to cope with hot weather with our heatwave advice.