The world is getting hotter, and heatwaves will become more frequent and severe as the century continues, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
As people across the globe swelter in record temperatures, knowing how to deal with the heat is becoming ever more important, especially for the most vulnerable: – children, the elderly and people that are homeless.
Hot weather also poses a risk for those that work outdoors. So what can we do to protect ourselves and others? Here are the WHO’s recommendations.
1. Keep your home cool
Indoor temperatures above 32°C in the day and 24°C at night pose risks to the health of infants, the elderly and people with chronic health conditions. Check temperatures regularly to avoid overheating.
You can reduce heat in your home during the day by closing windows, shutters and curtains on the side of the building that faces the sun. At night, open windows and shutters to allow the cooler air to circulate.
Turning off artificial lighting will also help keep your home cool. All electrical devices emit heat, so, where possible, turn them off too. If your home is air-conditioned, keep doors and windows closed.
Hanging wet towels around the house can also help reduce heat, as can electric fans. But above 35°C, they are less effective – and at this temperature may not prevent heat-related illnesses.
2. Keep out of the heat
Staying inside during the hottest part of the day will help you avoid the worst of the heat. But this can be hard for people who have to go out to work, particularly those who work outdoors.
The WHO suggests changing your working hours to earlier in the day to avoid the worst of the heat.
If you are staying at home, try to spend most of your time in the coolest room. This is especially important at night. And if your home gets too hot, spending a few hours in a public building with air-conditioning, like a shopping mall, can help.
If you do go out, try to stay in the shade as much as possible. And never leave children or animals in a parked car.
3. Keep your body cool and hydrated
Drink regularly to stay hydrated but avoid alcohol, which causes dehydration.
Cool showers and baths are a good way to beat the heat. If that’s not possible, sponging with chilled water or using a hot water bottle filled with iced water is an effective alternative.
You could also try a cool foot bath, or put your socks in the fridge – cooling your feet will reduce body temperature.
Have you read?
Jumping into a river or lake may seem like an appealing way of cooling down. But in London, the police warned of the dangers of cold-water shock when one person died and two went missing after diving into the River Thames to cool off.
The UK’s Royal National Lifeboat Institution warned that leaping into cold water during extreme temperatures could “literally take your breath away”.
Instead, the WHO advises wearing light, loose-fitting clothes made of natural materials. If you go out, wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. And at night, sleep under a light sheet but avoid cushions, which can store and release heat.
Importantly, the WHO urges people to look out for others, particularly vulnerable neighbours. And if you feel ill, consult your doctor.