Hot weather? Keep it cool

Another scorcher of a weekend for much of the country - and with news that last month was the hottest June on record, it's likely that there's more hot weather to come.

This may be great news for the farmers and the ice cream salesmen, but hot weather can be risky for your health. It's a particular issue for babies, youngsters and older people, or anyone with long-term health problems.

So here are my top tips to minimise the risk of ruining your summer by heat-related problems.

Babies and toddlers:

  • Keep babies under six months out of direct sunlight altogether
  • Offer bottle fed babies boiled cooled water between feeds
  • Remember that your breast fed baby may want to feed more often in hot weather, because of thirst rather than hunger
  • For older babies and toddlers, keep them out of sunlight from 11am-3pm and minimise other time in bright sunshine
  • Apply sunscreen (at least factor 15) regularly - don't forget sunlight can reflect off water or other surfaces and they can get sunburnt even if they're not in sunlight
  • Let them cool off in a paddling pool or even a bucket of water - but apply sunscreen more often if they're in water
  • Give them a cool bath before bedtime, and keep nightclothes to a minimum
  • Pop on a sunhat with a wide brim and ideally a flap to cover the delicate back of the neck
  • Sunsuits in material designed to offer sun protection often make it easier to keep them protected from sun damage if they're running around.

For the rest of us:

  • Play it cool in loose, breathable clothing. Cotton and linen are ideal. Tight synthetic clothes like Lycra® make it harder for your body to regulate your temperature, and makes you prone to prickly heat
  • Wear light coloured clothes that reflect light
  • Wear sunscreen on all exposed areas when you're out
  • Stay out of the sun from 11-3pm
  • When it's really hot outside, pull the curtains and shut the windows (ideally light coloured curtains that will reflect light and heat)
  • Wear sunscreen on all exposed areas when you're out - don't forget the tips of your ears
  • Your scalp can get burnt too - wear a hat (ideally wide-brimmed) outside
  • Protect your eyes as well as your skin - sun damage to your eyes increases the risk of cataract and age-related macular degeneration in later life. Choose sunglasses with high UV protection
  • Be particularly wary when the weather is very humid. You lose less heat from sweat in humid weather, increasing the risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke
  • Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink. As you get older, your body gets less good at recognising dehydration and responding my making you thirsty
  • As a very rough rule of thumb, your urine should be pale straw coloured. If it's darker than this (think Lucozade-colour) it's probably because you're dehydrated, and your kidneys are trying to conserve body water by making your urine more concentrated
  • Water, juice, milk and flavoured drinks all count towards your daily fluid intake - but beware the sugar content of sweetened drinks and even fruit juice. Water is ideal
  • Caffeinated drinks count towards your daily fluid intake up to 400mg caffeine a day - about eight cups of tea or four cups of coffee. Don't have more than 2200mg of caffeine in a day if you're pregnant
  • When is a fluid not a fluid? When it's alcohol! Alcohol is a diuretic and makes you pass more water, increasing the risk of dehydration.

How much fluid is enough?

Knowing how much fluid you should drink is not as easy as you might think. Most of us get about 20% of our fluid intake from food - so if you're not eating at all, or aren't eating fluid-rich foods like fruit and veg, the figures below might be too low for you.

In hot weather, you'll be losing much more fluid than usual because of sweating. You may want to drink at least 25% more than the 'standard' figures in hot weather, especially if you're physically active. You'll also lose more fluid if you have diarrhoea and vomiting. The European Food Standards Agency recommends that in normal weather, with normal food intake for age, liquid intake should be, very roughly, the following:

  • 100-190 mL/kg of breast milk or formula per day for babies under six months (a total of 500-980ml/day, for instance, for a baby weighing 5kg). The average figure is usually around the middle - so about 750ml/day for a baby weighing 5kg - but this may increase in hot weather
  • 650-800ml/day for six to 12-month-olds
  • 900ml-1 litre/day for one- to two-year-olds
  • 1-1.1 litres/day for two- to three-year-olds
  • 1.3 litres/day for four- to eight- year-olds
  • 1.5 litres/day for nine- to 13-year-old girls
  • 1.7 litres/day for nine- to 13-year-old boys
  • 1.6 litres/day for females over 13
  • 2 litres/day for males over 13.

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.