Curry to exercise — myths and tricks on beating heatwave as temperatures soar
WE have basked in soaring temperatures for more than a week, with the sunshine expected to continue into July.
BBC weather forecasters predict highs of 28C today. While that is great news for sun worshippers, the heatwave could be wreaking havoc with your health.
High temperatures have been linked with everything from poor sleep to increased levels of depression and even heart attacks.
Lynsey Hope reveals how the heat could be affecting your wellbeing, while experts explain the truth behind some common myths.
HEATSTROKE IS NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT – MYTH
Heatstroke can actually kill you, warns GP Dr Philippa Kaye, who adds: “If you get too hot, you start sweating and your body gets unhappy. You might suffer heat exhaustion as your body is working too hard to stay cool.
"You’ll sweat a lot and feel unwell. You need to go inside, take a cool shower and remove some clothes. But heatstroke is when you get even hotter and it’s much more serious.”
Heatstroke happens when your body is trying to cool down but it becomes overwhelmed and starts shutting down. At this point, you won’t be sweating.
Dr Philippa adds: “By this stage it is very difficult for you to help yourself. Heatstroke is a medical emergency. It can lead to loss of consciousness and seizures. Your organs may begin to shut down and it can lead to death.
“Babies, young children and the elderly are more at risk.
"If heatstroke happens, take the person indoors, remove clothes, apply a cool flannel to the back of the neck, get them to drink water if possible and call 999.”
HOT WEATHER CAN AGGRAVATE MY ALLERGIES – FACT
“When the weather is warm, dry and windy, the circulating levels of pollen in the air increase,” explains BBC Breakfast’s resident GP Dr Rachel Ward.
“Pollen is what people who have hay fever are allergic to and this can also be a trigger for asthma in some people. Therefore, when the weather is good, hay fever is often worse and some people may suffer more with asthma symptoms.”
WHEN IT’S TOO HOT, WE GET ANGRY AND DEPRESSED – FACT
“Some studies have shown that extreme heat can lead to increased anxiety and violence, including domestic violence,” Dr Rachel explains.
“Some studies also suggest a link between increased rates of suicide and extreme heat. But there is no clear cut-off temperature for where this becomes most pronounced.”
WE NEED VITAMIN D SO WE DON’T NEED TO APPLY SUNSCREEN ALL THE TIME – MYTH
“Studies have been carried out in Australia comparing the Vitamin D levels in people who did apply sunscreen with those that didn’t,” Dr Philippa says.
“There was very little difference in their Vitamin D levels so you should apply your sunscreen carefully and regularly.”
The NHS recommends applying sunscreen every two hours, with two teaspoons for your head, arms and neck or two tablespoons for your body while wearing a swimming costume.
“Putting on sunscreen should be like brushing your teeth,” Dr Philippa says. “Apply it before you go out, even if it is cloudy outside, as there is still a risk of sunburn.”
A HOT CURRY WILL COOL YOU DOWN – FACT
“Hot, spicy foods can heat up the body and cause you to sweat,” explains Dr Philippa.
“The idea is that if the curry makes you sweat, then it will cool you down. It could definitely work but in order to sweat you must remain hydrated, so drinking plenty of water alongside your vindaloo is very important.”
I SHOULD AVOID EXERCISING WHEN IT’S HOT – MYTH
Working out in extremely hot places puts extra stress on the body and can be dangerous, putting you at greater risk of heat-related illnesses such as heatstroke.
“But that doesn’t mean you have to avoid it altogether,” says Dr Philippa.
“Most gyms are air-conditioned so you should be safe inside. If you do exercise outdoors, you need to drink more than usual.
“Try to avoid running or any high-intensity exercise in the heat of the day from around 11am until 3pm.” If you suffer cramps, nausea, excessive sweating, dizziness or visual problems, stop, get indoors and cool down.
HOW THE HEATWAVE AFFECTS YOU
POOR MENTAL HEALTH: A 2018 study published in the journal Nature Climate Change linked a 1C rise in average monthly temperature to an increase in suicides. They also analysed more than 600million tweets and found people were likelier to express depressive feelings as the temperature rose.
BRAIN FOG: Research shows any temperature above 23C can impair our concentration. We perform worse in cognitive tests, doing tasks more slowly and less accurately.
HEART RISK: Heart attacks are more common in hot weather. Our bodies work to prevent us overheating, pushing blood closer to the skin – but in the process, putting extra strain on the heart and lungs.
RASHES: Around 15 per cent of women suffer from polymorphic light eruption, a skin rash triggered by exposure to sunlight or artificial UV light. These itchy, burning rashes can last up to two weeks, typically appearing on the head, neck, chest and arms. The condition is often confused with prickly heat, when blocked sweat glands cause small, raised spots, an itchy, prickly feeling and mild swelling.
DIABETES COMPLICATIONS: The body’s metabolism is higher in hot and humid weather which can lead to increased risk of hypoglycemia – where your blood sugar level drops dangerously low – as insulin absorption can be increased.
MIGRAINES: Experts say the increased likelihood is down to the stress heat puts the body under. Our body has to work harder to maintain a safe temperature, pushing heart rate up.
INSOMNIA: A 1C rise in temperatures could make it harder to sleep for at least three nights, researchers claim.
TOOTHACHE: It’s not the temperature that causes a problem but the food and drinks we enjoy during a heatwave. Any sudden temperature change can cause tooth enamel to crack so ice cream or lollies could weaken it.
KEEP WINDOWS AND DOORS CLOSED – FACT
It’s common to fling doors and windows open when temperatures rise, but keeping them closed will keep the house cool.
“When it gets super hot, you need to keep your home as cool as possible and that doesn’t always mean opening the windows,” Dr Philippa says.
“If the outdoors is hotter than inside, keep your windows closed and curtains drawn. This will stop the sun from getting in and warming up your house.
"But as the sun sets and temperatures drop, open the windows and you’ll feel a lovely breeze coming in, which could help you to sleep.”
SLEEPING NAKED WILL KEEP ME COOL – MYTH
“It is tempting to strip off but being naked won’t help,” says Sammy Margo, a physiotherapist and sleep expert.
“Instead, choose pyjamas which are 100 per cent cotton. This will allow your skin to breathe and soak up any sweat rather than leaving it on your body.”
I MUST DRINK EIGHT GLASSES OF WATER A DAY IN A HEATWAVE – MYTH
“The most important thing you can do for your health when it’s hot is to stay hydrated, and most of us don’t drink enough,” Dr Philippa says.
“The NHS recommends drinking six to eight cups of fluid a day.
“However, lower-fat milk, sugar-free drinks, tea and coffee all count towards that total.
"It doesn’t have to be plain water and bear in mind that when it is hot you may need to drink even more than usual.”
A COLD SHOWER WILL COOL ME DOWN – MYTH
“You might feel like an ice-cold shower before bed, but it won’t cool you down for the night,” explains Sammy.
“Your body will react to freezing water by preserving heat.
"Actually, taking a warm shower before bed may be most beneficial.
"As you get out of the water, your body will wrongly believe the surrounding temperature is cooler than it is and release melatonin to cool you down.”
IF I HAVE DIABETES OR HEART PROBLEMS I SHOULD STAY OUT OF THE SUN – FACT
“Anyone with significant underlying health conditions may become more unwell if they get dehydrated or overheat,” Dr Rachel says.
“This is especially true of those with conditions that lead to difficulties with fluid balance, such as heart failure and kidney failure.
“People should stay in the shade, avoid dehydration and ensure that they cover up and keep cool.
“Avoid going outside for long periods during the middle of the day when temperatures are highest.”
TIME TO COOL OFF
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