Beat the heat: top tips to manage the heat wave in Nigeria

While basking in the sunshine is a wonderful thing, extreme heat can be deadly, affecting younger and older people, pregnant women, and those with chronic health conditions.

But there’s a lot we can do to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the heat.

1. Be sun smart

It’s best to avoid going out during the hottest hours of the day, but sometimes that can’t be avoided. When out in direct sunlight remember:

  • Wear (and regularly reapply) sunscreen.
  • Cover your head with a hat.
  • Take regular breaks indoors or in a shady area to avoid getting heat exhaustion or heatstroke.
  • Wearing light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing will also help you to stay cool.

2. Wetter is better

Heat escapes through the skin, which is the largest organ in the body. So, the more skin you can cool down, the better.

There are various methods for how to cool your skin down in baking hot weather:

  • Drenching a t-shirt and keeping it wet can be very effective.
  • Buy cooling spray.
  • Having a cool shower – not freezing as you should cool down slowly.

You can quickly cool yourself down by putting your hands and feet in cold water. Wrists and ankles have lots of pulse points where blood vessels are close to the skin, so you will cool down more quickly.

A woman holds a bottle of cold water to her head in an attempt to stay cool, in the blazing sun

A woman holds a bottle of cold water to her head in an attempt to stay cool, in the blazing sun

3. Drink plenty of water

In hot weather, it’s important to avoid caffeine and make sure you’re drinking lots of water. If possible, drink isotonic sports drinks to replenish the lost salts, sugars, and fluids.

Both cool and hot drinks will work to keep your core temperature at the same temperature. Consuming hot drinks will not cool you down more effectively than cold drinks. In the heat, you should avoid drinks containing caffeine, including tea and coffee, it’s typically best to stick to water.

As you sweat throughout the day, the liquids you are losing need to be replaced to avoid dehydration.

Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • a dry mouth
  • dizziness or confusion
  • headaches
Someone holding beer aloft on a sunny beach.

4. Limit your alcohol

The sun is high, and so are many people’s spirits. And that can lead us to the pub.

Unfortunately, mixing too much sun with a few too many drinks is not a good combination.

Alcohol causes dehydration, which can hit especially hard if your body is already struggling to stay cool in the summer. Drinking alcohol can also make it harder to get a good night’s sleep, something that’s already difficult in warmer temperatures.

While you may fall asleep quickly, you’re likely to have poor-quality sleep and wake up earlier than usual – not exactly the refreshing sleep you’ll need. Try to drink in moderation and read more advice on how to keep cool at night during heatwave.

 

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5. Eat light meals to feel cooler

When it’s hot, you are far better off sticking to light, well-balanced, regular meals. Food with a high water content like strawberries, cucumber, celery, and lettuce, will also help to keep you hydrated and cool in summer weather.

You can also try foods with high fluid content like soups and stews that contribute towards hydration levels.

An exhausted woman bends down after exercising, as the sun beats down as part of a British Red Cross blog on beating the heat.

6. Limit physical activity to cooler parts of the day

It’s important not to disrupt your routine too much because of hot weather, but sometimes you may have to. An early morning run may feel punishing when you’re nice and sleepy in bed, but it could be dangerous to exercise in the blazing midday sun and risk dehydration, heat exhaustion, or heatstroke.

Take the temperature into consideration when planning your day and, if you can, limit physical activity to when it’s cooler. If you do decide to workout or play sport, , make sure to drink lots of water and take more breaks than usual to make sure you’re not putting any extra stress on your body.

You should also make sure you take a cold shower after exercising to cool down and follow our other advice for staying cool throughout the day.

 

7. Keep your home cool

During the hot weather, it’s important to make your home a place you can escape to out of the heat, so keeping it cool is key to feeling comfortable. When temperatures reach heatwave levels this can be more challenging than you may realise and it’s not as easy as just opening a window.

Keeping your house cool is especially important at night. During a heatwave temperatures often stay high even at night making it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. While it affects everyone in areas affected by a heatwave, people living in high-rise buildings and in urban areas may particularly struggle with this problem. Make sure you’re taking steps to keep your home cool and sleeping during a heatwave by following our advice.

A young man stands in an urban area looking frazzled in a heatwave.

8. Know the risks

 

The heat can have a serious effect on your physical health, and especially during a heatwave, it’s important to look out for signs of heatstroke and heat exhaustion. Many people believe that heat exhaustion and heatstroke are the same things, but heatstroke is potentially far more serious.

Heat exhaustion is caused when the body loses excess water, salt, and sugars through sweating. It can be treated by having plenty to drink, keeping out of the sun, and knowing how to cool down.

Heat stroke occurs when the body’s temperature becomes dangerously high and the body is no longer able to cool itself. Symptoms include confusion, headache, nausea, and muscle cramps.

Another symptom is paler skin than normal – depending on your skin tone this could mean your skin looks ashen, grey, or a more yellowish hue. It might be easier to notice this change in colour on the palms of hands, nails, or eyes, gums, and tongue.

Heatstroke can develop with little warning and quickly lead to a person becoming unresponsive. It’s vital to cool them down as quickly as possible by wrapping them in a wet sheet of clothing.

SUMMARY:

Managing a heatwave requires proactive measures to ensure safety and comfort. Here are some tips to help you stay cool and healthy during periods of extreme heat:

1. **Stay Hydrated**: Drink plenty of water throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, as they can dehydrate you.

2. **Stay Indoors During Peak Heat**: If possible, stay indoors during the hottest parts of the day, typically from late morning to early evening. Use fans or air conditioning to cool down your living space.

3. **Dress Appropriately**: Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing made of breathable fabrics like cotton. Light-colored clothing reflects sunlight and helps keep you cooler.

4. **Cooling Measures**: Take cool showers or baths, or use damp towels to help lower your body temperature. Use portable fans or cooling towels to stay cool if you don’t have access to air conditioning.

5. **Limit Physical Activity**: Avoid strenuous activities, especially outdoors, during the hottest parts of the day. If you need to exercise, do it in the early morning or late evening when it’s cooler.

6. **Protect Yourself from the Sun**: Wear sunscreen with a high SPF to protect your skin from sunburn, and wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to shield your face and eyes from the sun.

7. **Keep Your Home Cool**: Close curtains or blinds during the day to block out direct sunlight. Use reflective window coatings or insulated curtains to further reduce heat gain.

8. **Stay Informed**: Keep an eye on weather forecasts and heat advisories from local authorities. Be aware of any emergency cooling centers or shelters in your area.

9. **Check on Vulnerable Individuals**: Make sure to check on elderly neighbors, young children, and individuals with chronic illnesses who may be more susceptible to heat-related illnesses.

10. **Know the Signs of Heat-Related Illness**: Learn the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heatstroke, such as heavy sweating, dizziness, nausea, rapid heartbeat, and confusion. Seek medical attention immediately if you or someone else shows signs of severe overheating.

11. **Stay Cool at Night**: Use lightweight bedding and consider sleeping in the coolest part of your home. If it’s safe, you can also try sleeping outdoors in a well-ventilated area or setting up a tent in your backyard.

By following these tips and staying prepared, you can better manage the effects of a heatwave and protect yourself and your loved ones from heat-related illnesses.

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