How to be cool in the heatwave: Eat watercress, listen to Mozart and (sorry) no hanky panky
By Jane Fryer
and Laura Powell
Last updated at 1:48 AM on 30th June 2009
As temperatures in Britain leave Mexico, Istanbul and Bermuda in the shade and weathermen predict the hot spell to continue, Jane Frayer and Laura Powell bring you everything you need to know to survive the heat.
And, of course, a handy guide of what to do when the heatstorms and lightning eventually come. . .
Close your eyes and imagine swimming in a crystal-clear mountain stream or snowbathing on an ice floe. Or perhaps put on some Mozart or Vivaldi?
Scientific studies show both calming music and the imagination can 'potentiate the hypometabolic counterarousal state' - in other words, they can help slow down our metabolism so we produce less body heat.
Park life: 'Suits me purrfectly. Only a mug would be a cat on a hot tin roof at these temperatures'
Leave more time for travel and get up earlier to avoid the heat and the rush. A group of 14 people gives off more heat than a 1,000 watt electric fire, so do your best to avoid the crowds.
Light cotton night clothes are more comfortable than sleeping naked. Sprinkle talcum powder on your sheets to keep cool and keep the breeze of a fan gently blowing across your head.
Stick to cotton for your underwear. Ideally, legs will be bare, but failing that, wear stockings rather than tights. Men should wear cotton shirts, with a cotton string vest underneath to carry moisture away from the skin and allow it to evaporate.
Light-coloured clothes are better in direct sun - white reflects heat, while black absorbs it. Once you're out of the sun's rays, it makes little difference. Avoid jewellery, as metal retains heat.
Hot to trot: The three little pigs enjoy a shower before a roll in the mud
Bulldog spirit: 'Midday sun? No thanks, we won't go anywhere without our factor 50 and sun umbrella'
While sunshine is said to boost libido, scientist Norbert Bachl - professor at Vienna's Sport Medicine Institute - warns of the increased risk of heart attacks during sex in 30C temperatures and suggests making love slowly, or under a nice cold shower.
Extreme prolonged temperatures, however, do seem to put people off. After the long, hot summer of 1976, birth rates declined to a record low of 657,000 in 1977.
TOE THE LINE
Standing still for long periods in the heat puts more strain on the heart than if you were moving slowly. So if you're stuck in the line for Wimbledon tickets, use a portable fan or move around gently to keep air circulating round you.
KEEP A COOL HEAD
The less hair you have, the more freely perspiration can evaporate from the scalp - so keep hair short if possible.
According to Len Fisher, a visiting Fellow in Physics at the University of Bristol, 'your best protection is to always wear a hat when you are in the sun - preferably a hat that used to belong to a horse. These have holes [for the horse's ears] that let a cooling draft through while still providing shade.' If you don't have a horse's hat handy, an umbrella's a good alternative.
Going Quackers: Cooling off under a watering can
DRINK IT DOWN
Tea is good - a hot cuppa can cool you down more efficiently than the same amount of cold water. Avoid coffee and keep alcohol to a minimum as they act as diuretics, making you urinate more often. Replace them with herbal teas, juices (peach and tomato are more refreshing than orange) or, better still, water (lukewarm is actually more refreshing than iced).
Victoria Moore suggests a few cooling summer drinks in her book How To Drink. For example, lime and soda the Indian way (the juice of half a lime, still or sparkling water with salt or sugar to sweeten) which replaces essential salts and sugars as well as fluids.
Fresh mint tea is an excellent pick-me-up and elderflower fizz - cordial, fizzy water, a fat wedge of lemon and a sprig of cooling mint - is a wonderfully refreshing drink.
Aim for at least eight to ten glasses of fluid a day and check for dehydration and heatstroke by watching how often you urinate - ideally, you should go at least three times during the day and even in hot weather it should be the colour of light straw.
If you buy a fan, position it on a high shelf so that it cools hot air as it rises. Run all high-energy appliances at night - using the dryer and dishwasher during the day will heat up the house.
Use the microwave for cooking rather than the stove, which generates even more heat in the kitchen. Keep the windows closed and shaded - get air circulating with fans instead.
Shut the kitchen door - your refrigerator will pour out more heat from the back than usual in its efforts to keep the food inside cool.
Drink diving: Is this pint-sized porker about to take the plunge?
Cocktail hour: 'A shady spot in my very own duckchair'
Bathe any burned areas with a pot of black tea cooled in the fridge, or try a lukewarm bath spiced up by two cups of cider vinegar. Alternatively, use chilled, plain yoghurt or mashed cucumber to reduce redness and soreness. Or, easier still, take an aspirin.
QUICK ICE CUBES
IF SOME idiot's forgotten to fill up the ice tray, don't reach for the cold tap in a rage, because hot water freezes faster than cold. While it doesn't seem to make much sense (surely the colder the water, the faster it freezes?) the phenomenon was first discovered in Ancient Greece and scientists have been trying to explain it ever since. It's all to do with something called 'supercooling' - the process by which liquids are reduced to a temperature below their natural freezing point without becoming an icy solid - but no one's sure precisely how it works.
ANYONE FOR CURRY?
Watercress replenishes iron and calcium lost through perspiration, and almonds and other nuts and seeds contain fatty acids that stop the skin drying. According to Len Fisher, chilli and hot curries could have a double benefit: 'They make you sweat more -the liquid on your skin, however uncomfortable, does actually cool you down. Chillis also encourage you to drink more to replace the lost fluid.'
Sweat is rich in salt, and excessive sweating can produce a salt deficiency. So this is the one time you're justified in adding a little more salt to your dinner.
Keep meals small and try to take in fewer calories during hot weather - just digesting food generates heat in your body. So over-eating can tax the digestive system, worsening the effects of heat stress.
Storm in a teacup? Plain sailing for these baby millards
Chubby children are more vulnerable to heatstroke than thin, active children who cool down quicker. But keep an eye out at night - if it suddenly turns cold, a small, sweaty body will chill easily.
PROTECT THE POOCH
Slater white cats and dogs - who have less pigmentation in their skin to protect them - in sunscreen. Fish tanks should be out of direct sunlight, cleaned regularly and frequently topped up with water to replace the oxygen which evaporates from the water in the heat.
Working muscles generate heat, so keep the heat down by resting. Save jogging for the early morning or evening, or try swimming instead.
Cockadoodle phew! 'Where's my flake?'
If you still fancy a workout, remember the fate of two young Aussies a few years ago, who went running in 100Fplus temperatures (admittedly, after a few too many beers) and became so overheated that their muscles actually began to liquify, leaving them in agony and with permanently damaged legs.
Carry a minty spray for the mouth and water spray to use on face, hair and the back of your neck. Clean teeth several times a day. Hold wrists under cool running water....
And when it does start to rain, how not to be struck by lightning
Remove all metal objects, such as watches, lighters, buckles and jewellery. iPods were also thought to be a no-no, but last week, a 14-year-old survived a 300,000-volt power surge when the cable of her iPod diverted the power away from her vital organs.
Don't shelter under trees. Lightning strikes the tallest
objects around, so the tree will act as a conductor.
Avoid being out in open areas where you will be the tallest thing around - and therefore the easiest target.
If there is no shelter, crouch down, head between your knees.
Stop swimming and get out of the water as quickly as you can. Water is also a conductor.
Cars are safe thanks to rubber tyres and a large surface area.
And don't carry an umbrella - getting wet is better than dying.