Daily Telegraph, July 2006
It is a scientific fact that heat makes us more irritable, but is it also addling our brains? Wine lovers were alarmed to be told yesterday that red wine should be stored in the fridge when temperatures soar. So what else can we do to make the heatwave a little more bearable?
It may make the purists choke on their chianti, but if your wine isn’t stored in a cool cellar or cupboard, it is much better to put it in the refrigerator than to let it get too hot. Heat accelerates unwanted chemical reactions, including oxidation, and once the temperature is in excess of 25c wine becomes slack, loose and soupy. Heat speeds up the ageing process.
Similarly, store your bread in the fridge at this time of year – not to keep it fresh (refrigeration can have the opposite effect) but to stop it going mouldy. Moulds love warm, humid conditions, and there are always mould spores in the air. And if you want to keep that lipstick from melting, don’t carry it around in your handbag. Put it in the fridge, too.
Become a couch potato. Read a newspaper, listen to the radio, watch daytime TV. Your body will still be generating heat at a minimum rate (the Basal Metabolic Rate), but when we move around our muscles generate extra heat that the body must dispose of. And if sitting down gives little respite from the heat, try lying on the floor. The lower you are the cooler you will be because cool air is denser and stays near the floor. But don’t take a partner with you.
Remember, avoid exercise.
The maximum volume of perspiration that you might produce on a very hot day is a staggering one litre (i.e. one kilogramme) per hour. This needs replacing. Salts are lost too, and these also need replacing (about one teaspoon of salt to four litres of water, but check with your doctor if you have a medical condition that requires restricted salt intake). Best to avoid crisps – it’s too easy to forget to drink enough water with them. Some sources also recommend drinking large quantities at once, possibly because this makes sure that you DO drink enough.
Dab Eau-de-Cologne (or even vodka) on your forehead and sit in front of a fan. The air on humid days is full of moisture, which limits the cooling effect of evaporating perspiration. The solution is to use another volatile liquid that the air is not saturated with. Alcohol (the solvent in Eau-de-Cologne) fits the bill nicely. The fan carries the saturated air away and replaces it with fresh air.
Alternatively tie a can of cold beer to your head – an old Australian remedy. It works because 30% of heat transfers between yourself and your surroundings takes place through your head.
Or just go naked around the house. The body disposes of most of its excess heat by using it to evaporate moisture from the skin. The bigger the area for evaporation, the bigger the effect. If you must wear clothes, stick to light-coloured or white cotton, worn loosely. This allows air circulation, permits water vapour to pass through, and reflects any radiant heat.
Remember that heat stroke is SERIOUS. If you suspect it, get medical help at once. Bathe the body with tepid water in the meantime. Get the sufferer in front of a fan.
Avoid kebabs (or any hot food) – stick to salads. Hot food also adds to your overall body heat. You probably won’t have the appetite for it anyway. In the hot weather blood flow to internal organs like the stomach is reduced, while the blood flow just under the skin increases –
thus making it easier to dispose of body heat.
Avoid alcohol. It is a diuretic that promotes urine flow, which is the last thing you want when you are trying to conserve moisture. A hot cup of tea is O.K., though (preferably black tea) – it provides water and promotes perspiration.
Cut down on moisture loss by protecting them from the sun. Cover the area near the roots with aluminium foil to keep them cool (it’s better than black plastic because it reflects the heat). Keep moisture in the soil by mulching (even gravel on hanging baskets will help). If a very hot spell is predicted, remove some excess foliage to reduce water loss through the leaves. Deadhead your roses – this takes some leaves off as well, and so cuts down on moisture loss via transpiration.
Keep the curtains and windows closed If you can hang aluminium foil or some other reflecting material between the curtains and the windows, so much the better. Only open the windows when the outside temperature drops below that in the house (as measured by shade temperature).
The foundations of your house. Many clays shrink as they dry out. If a hot summer is predicted, act early (before the hosepipe ban) and pour plenty of water into the soil to re-swell the clay (I have lifted a sagging conservatory by a couple of inches through doing this). But
check with your structural engineer first!
Finally: Be glad that you don’t live in Australia and have bushfires to contend with as well!
© This article is copyright Len Fisher. Please email Len Fisher to seek permission to reproduce part or all of the above article.