Five top tips on cooling down this summer

Sarah's garden with parasol for cooling down in hot weather

There’s no doubt that our summers are getting hotter in the UK. And, while it’s lovely to see some sun, there are, in fact, a variety of implications to consider. This is of course an indication of the devastating impact of climate change, but I’ll leave this for a post another day. Another possible downside, as a result of this beautiful weather, is that extreme heat can make you ill. So, if good health matters to you, and cooling down in this current heatwave has become a priority, follow my top cooling down tips. Then, you can relax and really enjoy this season’s hot weather:

Cooling down in Snape on a summer's walk by the river
I love walking and, at weekends, I tend to walk in areas near the water. Here I am at Snape Maltings enjoying a stroll and a gentle breeze

Most of us Brits don’t have the luxury of built-in air-conditioning in our homes. But, staying cool and feeling hydrated are so important when the the mercury hits those all-time highs. This week, the weather forecasts are predicting temperatures will reach early 30s (degrees centigrade). And, while this may seem perfect if you’re on holiday lounging by a pool with a fruit cocktail, for many you still need to get on with your everyday lives. So, this means cooling down and keeping cool should be high on your agenda.

Heat exhaustion & cooling down

If you’re suffering from heat exhaustion, you’ll find the NHS offers a whole host of symptoms. These include a headache and feeling dizzy or confused. A loss of appetite and feeling sick is also an indication and you may start suffering cramps in your arms, legs and stomach. Check to see whether your pulse rate and breathing are faster than usual. Also, take your temperature to see whether this is 38C or more.

You’ll need to move to a cool place and try to lie down and raise your feet slightly. Drinking plenty of water is ideal for cooling down and try to lower your skin temperature with a sponge filled with cold water. You can even add a cold pack to your neck, and you should start feeling better within 30 minutes.

Heatstroke symptoms

If you still feel unwell, you could have heatstroke. If you’re not cooling down and you’ve got a temperature of 40C or higher or you’re not sweating, even while feeling too hot, these can be clear indications. You could even suffer a fit, lose consciousness and feel confused or have a shortness of breath. Fast breathing can be another sign and heatstroke can be very serious if not treated quickly. For more information, visit the NHS website.

Tip 1: Cooling down by staying hydrated

You’ll need to make sure you drink plenty of water when the weather is this hot as you’ll lose fluids through inevitable excess sweating. If you’re not a fan of plain water, you could substitute this for sparkling or add a slice of lemon. If you prefer more flavour, you could always add a splash of squash.

Avoid alcohol. For some, there’s nothing nicer than enjoying a chilled glass of rosé however this will accelerate dehydration – sorry! So, when you’re dealing with extreme weather conditions, it makes sense to at least steer clear till the evening to enjoy your preferred tipple, when it’s likely to be cooler.

drinking rose wine in the garden
Wait till the evening to crack open that bottle of perfectly chilled wine

Tip 2: Eating the right food to keep cool

If you’re struggling with the heat, and have lost your appetite, there are some foods out there which can actually help you cool down. As your body heat increases with extreme temperature, eating fruits with high water content are ideal. My favourites in the this sort of heat are watermelons and strawberries. However, I also like blueberries and raspberries, which are water-rich and alkaline, meaning they generate cold energy in your body that will help you to cool down. Your body heat will increase when the weather is this hot, so you’ll need to add plenty of fluid to your diet. Conjure up a salad and make sure lettuce, cucumber and celery are key ingredients as these are all very high in water content (95% water).

Beetroot and orange salad
I love making this mouth-watering vegetarian salad at home – simply fry some pine nuts, chop up some beetroot and add some chunks of cheese and peeled orange slices to a bed of rocket lettuce. Season and drizzle with olive oil then serve

Tip 3: Cooling down your home

Close your blinds and curtains. Whenever I visit France, I love seeing the decorative exterior shutters, which feature on so many traditional-style stone homes. While they look super-gorgeous, these are, in fact, designed for insulation as they can help to keep the heat in during the winter. However, in the summer, they also prevent the sun from warming your interior when it feels absolutely boiling outside. If you’ve stayed/lived in France, you’ll know this method works brilliantly. So, in the UK, close all your curtains and shut windows as this can certainly help to keep your home cooler if it’s hotter outside than in. Then, in the evening, throw open your windows upstairs, especially if there’s a breeze, and you should feel some benefits.

A picturesque property in France with closed shutters for cooling down
This picturesque home in Provence in France is a beautiful example of how well the French have designed their homes over the years. This property caters for hot weather perfectly in solid stone with beautiful shutters, which add an elegant touch and they are highly practical, too

Tip 4: Keeping cool in the bedroom

How many times already this year have you been tossing and turning, unable to get a good night’s sleep? Even with your windows and curtains closed, this room will still heat up to a certain extent if the temperature keeps rising outside. Of course, you could invest in a portable air-conditioner but these are hardly environmentally friendly. You’ll also probably find this ‘investment’ will help your electric bills rise even higher than they already have.

Master bedroom featuring sheets for cooling down in summer
We use a ‘chilled’ sheet instead of our duvet with a blanket at the bottom of the bed which can be pulled on if you find you’re feeling chilly in the middle of the night

Cooling down with a fan

So, why not consider an electric fan for cooling down instead? These tend to use a lot less electricity than air conditioners. Electric fans make a more sustainable choice and a stand fan will be easy to move around from room to room, too. You can choose one with a swivel option and place this near a window. This way, it should pick up any breeze from outside and help to encourage more cool air inside. If the blowing sound of a fan may be a problem, I hear Dyson’s Purifier Cool Purifying models , from £499, are ideal or simply buy some good quality ear-plugs and you’ll still enjoy a blissful night’s sleep.

Switch to summer sheets

If you haven’t already, now’s the time to switch to your summer bedding. The husband and I tend to ditch the duvet completely if we’re in need of cooling down when it’s baking outside. In fact, we have a blanket at the bottom of the bed if we wake up in the middle of the night to a slight chill in the air. And don’t sleep naked however tempting this may be – light cotton nightwear should be ideal as will absorb perspiration.

Use your fridge wisely

The husband and I tend to ditch the duvet completely if we’re in need of cooling down when it’s baking outside. In fact, we have a blanket at the bottom of the bed if we wake up in the middle of the night to a slight chill in the air. Pure cotton sheets are a must because you’ll find these are naturally breathable and should help to regular your body temperature, too. In the evening, try placing your sheets and pillowcases in a bag in the fridge for a couple of hours. Just before it’s time for bed, take a cool shower and remove the bedding from your fridge, and these temporary measures could help you fall asleep more quickly.

Tip 5: The cool garden

Sarah's garden with parasol for cooling down in hot weather
In my garden, I’ve got a few areas which we have designed to be shaded, including our new patio which we keep covered with a parasol when the mercury’s rising

Make sure you’ve added plenty of shaded areas in your garden where you can escape from too much exposure to UV rays. Invest in a parasol, a gazebo or even a garden room to protect you from the sizzling sun. This way, you can enjoy al fresco dining and relaxing outdoors with friends and family safely. And, if you’ve got the space and you’re feeling flush, why not invest in a swimming pool? These days, pools don’t have to be huge and you could always pick a hot tub instead if your outdoor space comes at a premium.

If you’re looking for long-term solutions, adding the right planting could really help in terms of cooling down in summer months. You could buy established trees for instant shade or buy small, which will be kinder on your pocket, and plant them in areas, which will shade you from the sun. You may have to wait a few years for the smaller trees to grow to see the results, but it will be worth it in the end.

An open-plan kitchen should be top of your wish-list if you’re planning a revamp of your heart of the home. So, read my blog which showcases my own kitchen and some of the accessories I’ve carefully chosen, which you can consider for your home.