How to cool down in a heatwave.
Everyone loves the sunshine, but even the most ardent sun worshippers will agree that an unexpected heatwave can be pretty miserable. If you’re tired of tossing and turning all night long and desperate for a good night’s sleep or stuck behind a desk all day and melting from heat exhaustion, read our 30 essential heatwave hacks to help you cool down:
- Drink up
The first rule of heatwave survival is to drink up! Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated – even if you’re not thirsty. Hot weather causes you to sweat, and it’s vital to replenish the lost fluids or you’ll overheat. Dehydration symptoms include dizziness, a dry mouth, lethargy, lack of energy and very dark urine – so keep a chilled water bottle within reach at all times to quench your thirst.
- Make a cooling compress
A cold compress is a surprisingly simple but effective method to quickly lower your body temperature and help you to cool down. Freeze a damp flannel or tea towel and use it as a cold compress on your neck and forehead to cool you down during the day. Keep a compress on your bedside table at night in case you wake up sweating and need a chill fix.
- Chill your pillow
If you’re lucky enough to own a big freezer, bag up your sheets and chill them during the day to help you sleep comfortably on a sweltering night. Choose thin cotton sheets that don’t retain heat rather than a duvet. If your freezer isn’t big enough, chilling your pillow cases can be just as effective.
- Take a lukewarm shower
Taking a cool shower or bath is a great way to bring your body temperature down first thing in the morning or just before bed. However, it’s worth opting for lukewarm water over the freezing cold setting. When you take a cold shower, your body works hard to try to warm up again — which can lead you to feel even hotter. According to a 2019 study, warm water actually cools your bloodstream, so take a lukewarm shower to regulate your body temperature more efficiently.
- Cool your toes
Feet are one of the body’s quick-cooling spots and if you focus on chilling your toes it can lower your whole body temperature and help you stay cool, so use a cold damp towel wrapped around your feet for temporary relief or soak your socks in cold water. If you’re really suffering, pop your socks in the freezer for 10 minutes for the ultimate toe cooler!
- Leave your hat on
Sweltering hot and wondering how to cool down? If you really must leave the house, shading your face from the sun with a hat will make you feel cooler on a scorching day. Opt for wider brimmed styles and avoid black which absorbs heat, or carry a sun protective umbrella around for your own personal shady spot.
- Pull down the blinds
Keep your curtains and blinds closed during the day to stop the sun coming in, but open windows on the shady side of the house. This will stop the heat coming in and reduce the temperature of your room. But once the sun sets and the temperature drops, open them back up for a slightly cooler breeze to help you cool down.
- Make a brew
Did you know that sipping on a hot cup of tea can actually help to cool you down? A 2012 study carried out by researchers from the University of Ottawa looked at the effect hot drinks have on body temperature and revealed that sipping tea can indeed lower the amount of heat stored inside your body, provided the additional sweat that’s produced when you drink the hot drink gets the chance to evaporate.
- Get minty
According to research mint actually tricks your brain into believing your mouth is cold, so sip on mint tea or make your very own mint cooler to beat the heat. Simply add a handful of mint leaves to a jug of iced or carbonated water, toss in some fresh lemon slices, sit back and enjoy.
- Skip coffee and alcohol
Everyone loves a glass of cool beer in the sunshine (and who could survive without coffee?) but in the midst of a heatwave it’s worth sidestepping drinks that have a diuretic effect. Beer and coffee are both fluid depleting culprits that make you need to pee more and lose fluids as a result. You need fluids to sweat to help cool down, so switch to water until the heatwave passes.
- Avoid hot foods
According to research eating spicy food can make you feel hotter! So avoid spicy curries or hearty roast dinners, and opt for chilled salads and pasta dishes that can be enjoyed cold. Keep your oven off to avoid generating any more heat in the house, and fire up the barbecue to spend the entire heatwave eating alfresco.
- Eat water-rich foods
Water-rich fruits and veggies such as melon, berries, cucumber and fresh peas all have a high water content, which will aid hydration and help you cool down. Cold vegetable soups, such as gazpacho, and homemade ice-lollies packed with fresh fruit juices or pureed fruits should also be top of the heatwave menu.
- Snack on frozen yoghurt
Invest in a frozen yoghurt maker for creamy but healthy summertime treats. There are a number of great frozen yoghurt makers on the market, which fast-freeze yoghurt and sorbet ingredients to give you a healthy treat. Alternatively buy an ice lolly mould to make cost effective and healthful fruit lollies at home.
- Invest in a desk fan
When the temperature soars it’s worth investing in a small desk fan to cool you down. Desk fans also come with an unexpected sleep boosting trick: the white noise of a fan whirring away is actually proven to help you sleep! But if you do use it on your desk during the day, try not to nod off.
- Feel the breeze
On really humid days it can feel like your fan is just circulating hot air around the room. Create a cross-breeze by opening doors as well as windows first thing in the morning to encourage a wind tunnel through your home. If you own more than one desk fan, strategically place them around the room to create a fake cross breeze, or point your fan outside and slightly towards the window so they push the hot air out. If you’re lucky enough to own a ceiling fan, set it to counter-clockwise to pull the hot air away.
- Hang wet sheets
Soak a couple of sheets or muslin squares in water and drape them around the house or in front of windows for a cooling effect. A well-placed wet sheet brings the room temperature down and adds some much-needed moisture to dry air. Damp muslin cloths can also help to keep babies and small children cool during the hottest parts of the day.
- Don’t overexercise
While it can be tempting to go for a walk or run when the weather is nice, exercising in hot weather puts extra stress on your body and increases your risk of heat stroke. If you’re reluctant to miss your daily run, start early to sidestep the midday sun, switch running for swimming, or head for the air-conditioned gym instead.
- Create a fine mist
The Cool Mist Umbrella is just like a traditional patio parasol except this one generates a fine cooling mist around the canopy. Simply connect your standard garden hose to the base and cool down in your own backyard on hot summer days. For a cheaper option, buy a paddling pool and wallow in the shade to cool you down.
- Try a portable spritz!
For a portable mist to spritz on your face on the bus, at the office, or even in bed at night, pop a cooling face spray into your handbag. Spraying a fine mist of water on your face and limbs works in the same way as sweating by evaporating and cooling the body. Studies show that facial spritzing is also great for skin moisture balance, so it’s a win-win.
- Pack a paper fan
If you’re out and about and struggling in the heat, for a cost-effective cooling solution keep a paper or bamboo hand fan in your bag and whip it out when you need a quick cool down – perfect if you’re sweltering on the tube.
- Wear natural fibres
Wear light loose-fitting cotton skirts and tops to draw moisture away from your skin and make sure you opt for natural fibres to help you keep your cool. At night, loose fitting, well-ventilated cotton pyjamas are the best option. Avoid synthetic materials that will cling to you at night.
- Switch to a summer duvet
Invest in a lower tog summer duvet or switch to a cotton sheet to keep you from seriously overheating during the warmer months. Breathable bedding is best, so opt for linen, bamboo, or cotton to help cool you down. Specialist bedding such as buckwheat or water-filled pillows can also help transfer heat away from the body, or go all-out and buy a cooling mattress topper.
- Wear sports kit all day
Most sportswear brands now use sweat-wicking fabric to deal with sweat and help you stay cool during physical activity, so wear your gym kit all day long to retain an even body temperature. If anyone asks, you’re just on your way back from a workout!
- Invest in a home AC unit
Loathe as we are to suggest you turn to an air conditioner for comfort during these humid and sticky times, if you’re really struggling to sleep/work/relax and you’re desperate for a breath of fresh air, an AC unit is the fastest and most effective way to beat the heat. It’s not cheap, but we hear the De’Longhi Pinguino does the trick. Marginally easier on the pocket, the Argos the Challenge 5K Air Conditioning Unit is also a strong contender.
- Make your own air con!
To go easier on the planet (and your pocket) ignore the above and make your own home air con by placing an electric fan in front of your desk (or bed during the night) behind a shallow container filled with ice cubes. The ice will cool the air blowing over you and help evaporate sweat when temperatures soar.
- Switch off electrical devices
Sharing your home with multiple electrical devices can actually raise the room temperature and you’d be surprised at the heat generated by devices including chargers, TVs, laptops, and even lightbulbs. So unplug any unnecessary electrical equipment and go off grid! High temperatures can actually damage your devices and shorten their lifespan, so it’s good practice to switch everything off when it’s not in use.
- Go solo
If you find yourself tossing and turning all night long and your other half is emanating enough heat to boil a kettle, consider separate rooms for the duration of the heatwave. This applies to the daytime too, so skip your nightly sofa snuggles and avoid densely populated places such as the tube. One hot body is enough to contend with!
- Head downstairs
Hot air rises, so head downstairs to cool you down during the hottest parts of the day. If you live in an apartment and don’t own a basement, pop out to a cafe between 11am-3pm and make the most of their air-con until the temperature dips.
- Freeze your hot water bottle
Dig out your winter hot water bottle and stick it in the freezer for a multi-purpose ice pack that you can keep in the bed during those hot summer nights, or rest on your feet during the day to help cool you down.
- Go glamping
If you’re lucky enough to have access to private outdoor space, pitch a tent in your own backyard/roof/terrace and take the temperature down a few notches by sleeping in the great outdoors. The best thing about camping in your own garden is you still get to enjoy creature comforts, so forget uncomfortable camp beds and drag your mattress and duvet outside for the ultimate home glamping experience to cool you down.