Debunking heatwave myths: Are these 5 bits of advice true or false?

·4 min read
Are these heatwave myths true or false? (Alamy/PA)
Are these heatwave myths true or false? (Alamy/PA)

It just keeps getting hotter – and here in the UK we are seldom equipped to manage proper heat. We’ve seen rail networks come apart, parks packed with sunburnt revellers, and hosepipe bans come into force in recent weeks.

You may have found yourself searching for answers to staying cool, and turning to old adages inherited from your parents. But, are these tips and tricks actually effective? We asked a doctor to explain…

1. Drink a hot drink to cool downWhenever you see someone drinking a steaming cup of tea or coffee in this heat, you may be thinking: ‘Are they mad?’ But for years we’ve been hearing people claim this actually helps them cool down.

Dr Stephanie Ooi, a GP at myhealthcareclinic.com, says: “During hot weather, it’s essential you stay hydrated. Some people believe a hot drink can cool you down, but studies showing whether this is based on fact are mixed.

“It’s likely a hot drink will trigger the body’s sweat response faster, which will bring your sweat to the surface of the skin and help you feel cooler a little quicker.”

So, this one really isn’t black and white. And in many scenarios, a cool drink just makes sense. The important thing? Stay hydrated. “Whether you like your drinks hot or cold, just make sure you are drinking enough,” says Dr Ooi. “If your wee is a little darker than usual or your mouth is drier than usual, it could be a sign you are dehydrated and you should drink more fluids.”

2. Sleep naked

Ditch the pyjamas? (Alamy/PA)
Ditch the pyjamas? (Alamy/PA)

Surely the best way to get a good night’s sleep in this heat is nudity and a fan – less is more, right?  Well, maybe that depends.

According to Ooi: “When it comes to sleeping during a heatwave, we generally advise wearing something really lightweight and breathable. Natural materials like cotton or linen are generally the best for this.”

So, breathable and lightweight clothing and bedsheets may be better than going fully nude. Ultimately, it’s probably a personal choice!

3. Take a cold shower before bed

After a long day trying not to overheat, a cold shower sounds ideal before you try to sleep. But, is it really that logical?

“Taking a cool shower before bed can bring your core temperature down, which can be a good idea. Just make sure it’s not too cold, as this can make your body try to warm itself up, rather than staying cool,” Ooi advises.

“Taking a shower before bed or just after getting home is also a good idea if you suffer from hay fever, as it helps to wash any residual pollen away.”

4. Wear light colours

GCSE science taught us how dark colours retain heat, while light colours reflect it – but does that apply to the clothes we wear in a heatwave?

White may keep you cooler but avoid the red wine (Alamy/PA)
White may keep you cooler but avoid the red wine (Alamy/PA)

“Wearing light versus dark coloured clothing is not as clear cut. Light coloured clothing helps to reflect light but dark colours absorb more UV rays, so from a sun protection point of view, darker colours are more protective. Vivid colours will also have a higher level of protection than pastel colours.” says Ooi.

“Make sure you stick to lightweight, sweat-wicking fabrics such as cotton and linen. You should also stay covered up or avoid the sun if possible during the hours of 11am and 3pm, when the sun’s at its strongest.”

5. You should keep windows and curtains shut

You may be desperate for a breeze in the house, but keeping windows open may not be the best solution in a heatwave.

“When it comes to curtains, blinds and windows, the general advice is to keep them closed during the day when it is very hot, to avoid the hotter air coming into rooms. Closed curtains also help block out heat,” says Ooi. “When it cools down later on in the day, you can then open up the windows to allow the cool air to come into the room. Of course, please be careful with any windows left open overnight.”

Any other heatwave advice Dr Ooi thinks is key?

“The main things I would suggest during a heatwave are to stay hydrated, stay out of the sun between 11am and 3pm, and wear appropriate sun protection – ideally an SPF50. Cover up with cool clothing and a sun hat and if you are outside, seek shade where possible.”