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Coping with Extreme Summer Heat: Lessons Learned and Tips for Staying Cool

Greg Devine


4 young friends having ice cream at a uk beach

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Summer feels like it’s finally here in all its glory, given the amazing weather we’re currently getting. Last year, the UK recorded its hottest ever temperatures, but have we learnt how to cope with extreme heat (extreme to us in Great Britain, anyway)?

Looking down my street, it would appear we have. Upstairs curtains seem mostly closed; maybe this is just my neighbours’ practice, but I would surmise that, after the extreme heat of last year, people now have a much better understanding of what to do to keep cool. It’s fair to say that this country isn’t particularly well built for our recent hot summers, so taking the right actions is important, to make sure you can get a good night’s sleep and cope well with the weather.

Dog having a drink of water during the UK heat wave

Just in the past week, I’ve made plenty of changes. I’ve invested in a good quality fan, so that I can get some sleep at night and function round the house in the daytime. I’ve stocked up on cheap ice pops for some quick relief and I’ve had plenty of barbeques, so the oven isn’t heating the kitchen in unbearable temperatures. Perhaps the best decision I made was buying a pool with my friends. They’re not cheap, but when you split the cost between a group of you, it becomes affordable, especially as so many of us chipped in.

We ended up having our own pool party. Why go to Ibiza when you have sun, good tunes and a pool in a back garden in Sheffield? You’d think this would amount to more than students could afford, but splitting the cost of the food, coal and fire-starters meant it was cheaper than eating out. In my opinion, food always tastes better when it’s been barbequed, and it’s great practice for when I’m an ‘older bloke’ who feels the need to guard their barbeque with a beer in hand.

Another reason I’ve dealt with the heat much better this year is my discovery of automotive air conditioning. My old car, which I sadly had to part ways with recently, did have the facility for aircon, but it never worked. My new motor’s air conditioning system is spot on; I find myself never wanting to get out of the thing! It does make me question whether we should all endeavour to get a/c fitted in our homes. Thanks to climate change, extreme summers are going to become typical. If it was more affordable, would people look to get air conditioning installed? I think so. It’s commonplace in homes in America and most new commercial buildings in the UK have it too, so I can’t see a reason for new build houses to not install it.

woman fanning herself in the UK Heat Wave

Cooling pillows don’t help in this heat. You might wonder how that can be, but they’re actually a bit of a scam. The pillows are marketed as cold to touch, which is true when you touch them. It will feel cold, but they aren’t ‘cooling’ as such. There’s nothing in the pillow to keep it cold, so as soon as your head has been on it for longer than a couple of minutes, it’s no different to a standard pillow. I’d always assumed there was some kind of magic cooling gel in them, but this isn’t the case. I learnt this from TikTok, and the same account dedicated to good sleep said that, instead, you should focus on cooling your feet, forehead, and lower back, as these are the areas in which heat will escape your body the fastest.

So, as people cool their socks in the fridge, keep their curtains closed and enjoy the sun responsibly, it does appear that the public has learnt from last year’s heatwave. Of course, we’re only just coming to the summer months—schools haven’t even broken up yet—but it does seem that the UK is better prepared. I guess the proof will be in the pudding when the mercury really rises.

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