7 essential tips to stay cool during a heat wave

an image showing a thermometer during a heatwave
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Both the U.S. and U.K. are experiencing heatwaves at the moment, with the mercury soaring to levels that vary from very warm to sweltering. Britain recently saw some record-breaking temperatures and the U.S. is expecting an extended bout of high temperatures. 

In fact, according to The New York Times (opens in new tab), heat advisories are in effect for over 100 million Americans. Texas has been especially hard hit, with 15 days of temperatures 100 degrees or higher. But warnings and advisories are in place for 28 dates from coast to coast. 

So you may be wondering how do you keep cool in the face of soaring temperatures. Well, we've got a mix of handy tips, tricks and advice to keep cool and beat the heat. 

1.  Wear lightweight and light colored clothing  

A woman wearing a hat and lightweight white top

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This is an obvious one, but opting for clothing made of lightweight materials is the way to make being out in the beating Sun more bearable. We’re talking about clothing made out of breathable cotton or linen. 

And while it might sound counter-initiative, it’s best to cover up when the Sun is particularly strong, as this'll help reflect some of the heat from beating sunlight; just opt for things like a white long-sleeved top.  Do bear in mind that you'll still want to wear sunscreen with a good SPF rating, as harmful rays can still penetrate sheer clothing items like beach cover-ups or loosely woven-fabrics that you can easily see light through. 

It’s also important to not gloss over the need for a hat. A hat, especially one that offers a good bit of shade, will keep intense sunlight from beating down on the top of your head and causing you to rapidly overheat or fall foul of sunstroke. 

2.  Stay hydrated

Pouring water from water filter

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It’s a fact of life that when you get hot you sweat. This is your body’s best way to cool down, but it does mean you lose moisture that can lead to dehydration (thus heart-related illnesses like heatstroke) if you don’t replace it. Drinking plenty of water throughout a hot day, even if you’re indoors, is the solution here. 

While there's no set amount, it’s recommended that you drink an average of four-to-six cups of water a day, more so if it's hot. So make sure you have a glass or bottle of water nearby through a heatwave. 

But sweating also robs the body of electrolytes, which needs to be replaced. So drinks with electrolytes (or adding electrolytes to water with supplements) are worth keeping in mind. Foods with plenty of calcium and potassium, such as chicken and bananas can help with electrolyte replenishment  You can also mix in eating salty snack with sips of water, to help replenish the lost sodium in your body; this will help you rehydrate. However, make sure you avoid drinking a lot of alcoholic drinks, which can dehydrate you. 

3.  Use an iced bottle of water to cool down quickly

a iced bottle of water on a bed of ice

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If you find yourself getting too hot even indoors, then one tip to help cool yourself down quick is to hold an iced bottle of water against you body for fast relief from the heat. 

The best way to do this is to freeze a bottle of water overnight, making sure to leave some space at the top for the expansion of ice. Then when you need it, wrap it in a light towel or cloth and hold it against your body. 

It’s best to target areas where you have major veins and arteries, such as your wrists, neck and inner thigh. This should have a rapid cooling effect. The same works for wet flannels and towels; just immerse them in cold water, wring them out, then place them onto your skin. 

4.  Stay inside 

A hand opening the blinds to show sunlight

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A sunny day might look very appealing, but when temperatures push beyond the seasonal average, it can become risky going outside, especially when the Sun is at its zenith. As such, it may be sensible to stay inside between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. 

Of courses, this will mean making sure you keep your home cool as well. If you don’t have access to air conditioning, or don't have A/C throughout your home, then check out our tips on how to cool down a room in a heatwave. We recommend keeping windows shut and curtains closed to keep out hot air and block warming sunlight, as well as make put iced water bottles in front of fans that should help circulate a cooling breeze around your room. 

Given heat rises, it’s also sensible to stay in downstairs rooms. And if you have a cool basement then that’ll be the place to use, as you'll avoid the hot air as it rises through the day. 

5.  Walk pets in the morning or evening 

a Labrador dog with its tongue out

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If you’re staying inside to try and escape the heat, common sense dictates that you shouldn’t take your dog for a walk. A dog’s inability to sweat means they suffer even more in hot weather, not to mention the fact they can burn their paws on the hot ground. The last thing you need is a bunch of hospital and vets bills because the two of you got heat stroke during your midday walk.

So you should only be walking your dogs during cooler periods afforded by early mornings and late evenings. You’ll both be a heck of a lot more comfortable (and safer) for going so. Plus it means you won’t have to try and cool off after deliberately going in the midday heat.

6.  Cover your windows with kitchen foil 

aluminum foil on tom's front window

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One of the big ways heat can get into your home is through the windows, piggybacking on sunlight. So the simplest way to stop this happening is to cover your windows with something reflective — including plain old aluminum foil that you have in the kitchen. 

The reflective properties of the foil stops the transfer of radiant heat and keeps it out of your house. You can use more specialized reflective material to this, many of which will still allow light to pass through and provide you with a less conspicuous and a permanent way to reflect sunlight. 

But if you’re in a pinch, and don’t mind riding out the rest of the heatwave in the dark, aluminum foil is a simple and effective solution. This should make staying inside on a hot day a lot more bearable, especially if you have no A/C. 

7.  Avoid using the oven/stove 

best gas ranges

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If you’re trying to cool your house down, it doesn’t make sense to heat it up by turning on your oven or stove. Not only will it make you sweaty, but you’ll use more energy — and increase your electricity bill — by making your air conditioner work harder. 

Focus on making meals that don’t require as much energy to cook, or ones where you can use smaller appliances, such as one of the best air fryers or best toaster ovens. Or, take things outside and fire up one of the best grills or best outdoor pizza ovens

And if you want to avoid extra heat altogether, then opting for cold meals or salads will prevent the need to use a heat-spreading appliance. 

Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face. 

With contributions from