Wellbeing and mental health

Feelin’ hot, hot, hot!

Sunny weather can feel wonderful after a cold or wet spell, but prolonged periods of heat can have a negative impact on your mental wellbeing.

Heat causes your body to work overtime as it tries to cool your system, and extended exposure to heat can lead to sleeplessness, lethargy, lack of appetite, and dehydration, all of which can lead to aggressive behaviours and anxiety.

A Loughborough University study found that driving whilst dehydrated can have the same impact on driving ability as being over the drug and drink drive limit.  This means your reaction time is slower.  There is also a correlation between warmer weather and the rise in crime and suicide rates.

The NHS list dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke as the main risks of a heat wave, and today the Met Office put parts of the UK on a Level 3, or Amber, ‘heat health watch’ warning.  This warning is issued when temperatures are predicted to hit 30C (86F) during the day, and 15C (59F) at night, for at least two consecutive days.

So as we prepare to feel even hotter, here are the NHS top tips for coping with a heat wave.

  • Shut windows and pull down the shades when it is hotter outside. You can open the windows for ventilation when it is cooler.
  • Avoid the heat: stay out of the sun and don’t go out between 11am and 3pm (the hottest part of the day) if you’re vulnerable to the effects of heat.
  • Keep rooms cool by using shades or reflective material outside the windows. If this isn’t possible, use light-coloured curtains and keep them closed (metallic blinds and dark curtains can make the room hotter).
  • Have cool baths or showers, and splash yourself with cool water.
  • Drink cold drinks regularly, such as water and diluted fruit juice. Avoid excess alcohol, caffeine (tea, coffee and cola) or drinks high in sugar.
  • Listen to alerts on the radio, TV and social media about keeping cool.
  • Plan ahead to make sure you have enough supplies, such as food, water and any medications you need.
  • Identify the coolest room in the house so you know where to go to keep cool.
  • Wear loose, cool clothing, and a hat and sunglasses if you go outdoors.
  • Check up on friends, relatives and neighbours who may be less able to look after themselves.

I would add that it’s good to try to be flexible.  Don’t stick rigidly to your routine or plans you’ve made if it means you’ll be exposing yourself to the sun or heat.  Take a rain check, and do it later.

Finally, the NHS recommends that if you have concerns about an uncomfortably hot house that is affecting your health or someone else’s, get medical advice.