With temperatures set to hit 24C in parts of the country over the coming days, we’ll all be reaching for the personal mini-fans and factor 50.
t’s set to be the first heatwave of the year, which may well become a more regular occurrence as scientists predict average temperatures are set to increase in Ireland by 2.4C by mid-century.
Learning to cope with hotter summers will take time, but until then, there are things we can do to make heatwaves more comfortable.
Working from home
Warmer temperatures make it harder to concentrate and to work productively. One study from the US suggested employees are up to 24pc less productive on a hot day compared to a mild one. And it’s not just because workers are tempted outdoors when the sun shines. Sweltering temperatures make it more difficult to think straight and impair decision making.
With huge swathes of the population continuing to work from home during this summer without the luxury of office air-conditioning, the effect is likely to be greater this year. So what can you do?
Do: Try to shift your working hours. There’s a good reason why people in Middle Eastern countries are most active early in the morning and late at night, as these are the coolest hours in the day. If you have a flexible working schedule, try to get up at 5am and complete tasks that are the most cognitively demanding before the midday burn sets in. Or if you are a night owl, set aside the hours between 10pm and midnight to work.
Don’t: Try to take your work outside. It might seem logical that you’d be more comfortable in the garden under a shady tree, but the possibilities for distraction are too numerous and powerful. The associations of leisure — birds tweeting, breeze blowing, mower droning — will do nothing to help you focus on that spreadsheet.
No one will judge you for hanging out in your underwear all day in the privacy of your home if it’s registering in the mid-20s outside. But if you do have to be visible to the outside world…
Do: Opt for loose-fitting natural fabrics. Now is the time to leave the pleather and the polyester in the drawer. Linen and cotton effectively absorb perspiration and don’t cling. Choose simple black, white or busy prints to avoid visible sweat patches.
Don’t: Assume that less is more. Tiny strappy tops and cheek-skimming shorts might seem like the obvious things to pull out of the wardrobe when you are feeling uncomfortably sticky. But skin-bearing clothing can often be tight and constraining. Comfort is key when dressing for sun. A voluminous muumuu or a pair of loose-fitting, lightweight trousers have the double benefit of promoting cooling air circulation around the body and protecting milk-white Irish skin from harsh rays.
Going to bed
A temperature higher than about 21C in the bedroom can impair your chance of getting a restorative night’s sleep.
Do: Try sleeping downstairs. Heat rises. Often the difference between the temperature upstairs and downstairs can be as much as one or two degrees. If you have a comfortable couch, consider making it your new bed until the heatwave is over.
Don’t: Let heat build up in the house all day. When it’s warm, our instinct is to open everything up, but you’ll keep things cooler indoors if you keep windows closed and curtains drawn during the day when the sun is blazing.
This is especially important if you live in a house or apartment that is south-facing or has lots of big windows. If you have blackout blinds or shutters, even better. The darker the house, the cooler it will be. Then, as soon as night falls, open everything up so that you get a cool cross breeze.
What to buy
Air conditioning units are expensive to install and run. Then there’s the issue of the negative environmental impact. Instead, consider investing in a good quality fan. The Dyson Pure Hot + Cool Link is recommended by Wired
magazine as a best buy.
Misting spray is an essential. Most of the mineral water brands such as Evian and Volvic now produce atomising sprays. Keep them in the fridge for that extra “Aaaaaah” factor.
A garden splash pool has long been a saviour for parents trying to cope with hot and cranky children. Irish sports warehouse (irishsportswarehouse.ie) carries a great selection of paddling and above-ground swimming pools, including a water slide that connects to your garden hose.