Though most of us look forward to the longer, sunnier days of summer, sometimes, staying cool during the hottest days of the year can be a real challenge. And with temperatures set to reach up to 41C in some parts of the UK this month, you might be wondering how you can beat the heat.

With that said, here are 17 ways to stay cool during a UK heatwave – as well as some tips on how to keep your pets cool too!

1. Close your blinds

Closing your blinds and curtains can help to block out sunlight and keep your home cooler. The paler your curtains or blinds are, the better the cooling effect will be, as they’ll reflect light rather than absorb it.

For best results, close blinds or curtains in the morning before the sun reaches its full strength, to limit the amount of heat that gets into the room in the first place.

2. Eat less meat

Our bodies have to work harder to digest meat and other high-protein foods, which generates body heat – so its best to keep these foods to a minimum, if possible.

Instead try to eat foods with higher fluid content, as these are easier to digest and will also increase hydration levels (food accounts for 20-30% of our fluid intake). Fruit and veggies with higher H20 content include melon, lettuce, celery, courgettes, cucumber, and strawberries.

Soups, stews, salads, and porridge can all be hydrating too. For meal inspiration, you might want to take a look at these 43 hydrating recipes from Greatist.

Eat less meat

3. Put your sheets and pillowcases in the freezer

It might sound extreme but putting your sheets and pillowcases in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before bed can give you a cool base to start with, and help you drift off to sleep better.

You could try putting your pyjamas in the freezer too!

4. Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin C

According to researchers at the University of Alabama, vitamin C could increase the body’s tolerance for heat by delaying sweat gland fatigue. This can help prevent heat stress and heat rash.

Additional research also revealed that doses of vitamin C as small as 250mg could prevent body temperature from rising during heat exposure.

For ideas on how to increase your vitamin C intake naturally, you might want to have a read of our article; Everything you need to know about vitamin C.

Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin C

5. Invest in a good fan

A good fan can make all the difference during this heat – though, many of us are worried about the cost of running one, especially throughout the night.

When choosing a fan, try to choose one with a DC motor rather than an AC motor, as these are more energy-efficient. Bladeless fans (like tower fans) also use less energy than their counterparts because their motor doesn’t have to manage the movement of larger blades.

You can also work out how much a fan will cost you with a simple calculation. Your energy bill should tell you how much you pay for 1 kilowatt (kW) of energy and you’ll need to multiply this by the kW output of your fan. Some fans will have the kW output printed on their label or in their manual – but if not, you can find the kW by dividing the fan’s wattage (W) by 1000.

For help choosing a fan, it’s worth checking out this list of the best fans in 2022 from Expert Reviews.

6. Take a cool shower before bed and wear cotton pyjamas

The Sleep Charity recommends having a cool shower or bath before bedtime to lower your core body temperature.

It also advises that wearing cotton pyjamas to bed is better than wearing nothing at all because the natural fabric will absorb any perspiration and help you feel less sticky.

Take a cool shower before bed and wear cotton pyjamas

7. Try frequent snacking, rather than eating large meals

When we eat a large meal, our body has to work harder to digest it. This process generates heat, which is why we tend to have a decreased appetite in the summer. Our body is trying to regulate our temperature by reducing processes that will make us hotter.

To prevent your body from heating up too much during or after eating, it can help to eat smaller meals or snacks throughout the day. Our article, 9 tips to prevent overeating and encourage portion control, can help with this.

8. Get some houseplants

When the weather warms up, houseplants transpire, which means they release moisture through their leaves – and this moisture is evaporated into the air. The process reduces the temperature of the plant and the air around it.

Some of the best cooling plants include rubber plants (ficus elastica), aglaonema, palm plants, sansevieria, and ficus benjamina.

Get some houseplants

9. Sleep downstairs at night

If your home has a downstairs area, then you might find it more comfortable to sleep there at night. Heat rises, so homes will typically be hotter higher up.

It can also help to make sure that any windows in attic spaces or top floors are open, so that the heat has somewhere to go.

10. Eat spicy food

There’s a reason why hot countries are synonymous with spicy food.

Spicy food contains capsaicin: a chemical compound found in chilli peppers, which binds to the pain receptors in our mouths and tricks our brains into thinking our mouths are on fire. Then, to try and cool off, our bodies trigger a sweat response.

If you enjoy spicy food and want to get some inspiration for your next dish, why not check out this list of the best spicy recipes from Olive magazine? There’s everything from Sri Lankan curry to spicy wonton soup.

Eat spicy food

11. Use a cooling towel

This cooling towel from Amazon is designed to keep you cool for up to three hours – and the reviews speak for themselves.

Simply soak the towel in water and place it around your shoulders, on the back of your neck, over your feet, or anywhere that you choose. This can be particularly effective at night while you’re trying to sleep.

Alternatively, if you want to make use of things you might already have at home, you can freeze a damp flannel and use it as a cold compress. For best results, it’s worth freezing three or four flannels so that when one warms up, you can pop it back in the freezer and grab another one.

12. Soak your feet

The temperature of our hands and feet helps to regulate our core body temperature, which means that keeping them cool can help to prevent us from overheating. Many people find soaking their feet in cool water or placing a cool compress on their feet to be effective cooling methods.

Soak your feet

13. Avoid using your oven

Though we all have to eat, it’s worth avoiding using your oven unless you really need to. There are plenty of nutritious meals you can make without getting hot and bothered in the kitchen – just check out these no-cook summer recipes from BBC Good Food, which includes everything from salmon and smacked cucumber noodles to ham and piccalilli salad.

If you do need to use the oven, then try not to preheat it any earlier than you have to and remember to keep the oven door closed so heat doesn’t escape.

14. Place frozen water bottles in front of your fan for an extra cool breeze

Though fans help to circulate air, it can sometimes feel like they’re just moving hot air around. To create a cooler breeze, you could try placing two or three frozen water bottles in front of your fan. Just be sure to sit them on a tray or in a tub to catch excess water as the bottles melt.

Place frozen water bottles in front of your fan for an extra cool breeze

15. Visit places with air-conditioning

If you’re in need of some relief, then consider whether you can incorporate visits to air-conditioned locations into your day. For example, if you usually work at home but your team’s office has air-con, then the sticky commute could be worth the hours of cooler temperatures that you’ll gain in return.

Shopping centres and cinemas are also great places to hide from the heat for a little while!

16. Wear white

Your clothing choices can make a significant difference to how cool you feel. Wearing white and other light colours can help you stay cool because they reflect light and absorb less heat.

Darker colours on the other hand, do the opposite, and will likely leave you feeling much hotter.

Wear white

17. Stay hydrated

It might sound obvious, but staying hydrated is one of the best ways to keep cool and look after your health during a heatwave. The NHS recommends drinking six to eight cups of fluid a day – but on very hot days you may need to drink more, especially if you have a physical job or are particularly active. If you’re out for the day, then be sure to take a water bottle with you.

It’s also best to limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol, as these can have a dehydrating effect and also raise your body temperature.

If you’re not a fan of water, then you’ll find plenty of other drink ideas in our article; 9 healthy and hydrating alternatives to water. Coconut water, for example, can help you replace electrolytes lost through sweat.

Tips for keeping your pets cool during a UK heatwave

As well as keeping ourselves safe and cool during the warmer months, it’s also important to look out for our pets too. 

Here are some tips that can help…

  • Walk your dog early in the morning or late in the evening when temperatures are cooler. Stick to the shade (wooded areas are best) and always take water with you.
  • Never leave a dog in a hot car for even a short time, as temperatures can rise quickly and heatstroke can be fatal.
  • Place a fan near your pet’s bed or lounge spot and put some frozen water bottles in front of it for an extra cooling breeze.
  • Pop your dog or cat’s favourite toy in the freezer for a quick cooling fix.
  • Test whether the ground is too hot by taking your shoes off and standing for a few seconds. If you can’t do this comfortably, then it’s too hot for your dog.
  • Consider adding ice cubes to your dog or cat’s water bowl in hot weather but make sure that the ice cubes are proportionate to the size of your pet, to avoid choking. Cats and smaller dogs should be given smaller ice cubes or shavings.
  • Make sure that you know where your pets are – especially cats – so they don’t become locked in a shed or greenhouse in the heat.
  • Invest in a cooling mat for your dog or cat, which absorbs their body heat and helps to prevent them from overheating. You can also drape a cool, wet towel over dogs to bring their temperature down.
  • Animals in cages and tanks should be kept out of direct sunlight – and remember to check and change the water in their bowls/tanks regularly.
  • Use pet-safe sunscreen on dogs, cats, and horses – especially if they have light skin or white fur, with pink skin. Pets are prone to sunburn and other complications associated with sun exposure, just like we are.
  • Consider making some frozen dog treats for your dog, such as these ones from Barking Mad. Or for cats, why not try these frozen ice lollies?
  • Take caution with open windows and balconies, as pets (especially cats) often fall out of them. If you want to keep windows wide open, then it’s best to install secure screens.
  • Remember to supervise dogs around pools and open bodies of water, as not all dogs are good swimmers. If your dog does go for a swim in the sea or in a pool, remember to rinse them after to remove chlorine and salt from their fur.
  • Brush your dogs and cats more regularly to remove excess fur.
  • Stand your dog in some cool water. Paw pads are the only place dogs sweat from so this can bring their temperature down significantly.
  • Know the signs of heatstroke, such as excessive panting and thirst, barking or whining, and a rapid heart rate. You can read more about heatstroke in pets on MediVet’s website here. If you think that your pet has heatstroke, always get them to a vet immediately.

Final thoughts…

Though the summer is a favourite time of year, it can also bring with it some challenges – including how to keep ourselves and our pets cool on the hottest days of the year. However, we hope some of the tips above will help.

It’s also important to remember that the sun is strongest between 11am and 3pm in the UK from March to October, so try to make sure you spend time in the shade between these times.

And finally, if you have any vulnerable people in your life, then it’s important to check in on them too, as prolonged hot weather can cause health risks.