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Charities offer advice on staying cool in the heat

a huge thermometer reaching up to the sky
a huge thermometer reaching up to the sky Image credit: warwickshire.gov.uk

As Britain braces for the hottest days on record professionals and charities have shared advice for disabled people on how they can stay cool in the baking temperatures.

Presenter of BBC Access All podcast, Emma Tracey, has had severe vision loss since birth although she is able to detect a small percent of light perception.

"I don't wear sunglasses because they dim my light perception," she explained. "I normally look at the darkness of objects either side of me to keep myself in a straight line, that's less easy with sunglasses on. "

Emma uses an echolocation which enables her to listen to sounds ricocheting off nearby hard surfaces which gives her an idea of her current location, but to activate the echoes she has to sacrifice an essential item of sun protection.

"I don't wear a hat because it messes up my sound shadows. When I wear a sunhat, with a brim or a peak, that changes the sounds I hear and makes it more difficult to get the information I need from my surroundings,” Tracey told the BBC.

The MS Society has estimated out of the 13,000 people living with multiple sclerosis in the UK 60 percent struggle with hot temperatures because their condition stops messages from their brain travelling to other parts of the body.

Dr Sarah Rawlings, from the charity, said: "For many people, their symptoms get worse - balance, fatigue and changes to vision - which can be difficult to deal with."

Rawlings added once temperatures start to cool down any exacerbation symptoms will start to ease off.

"We don't believe there are any long-term effects, but some people might feel fatigued for a few hours or days from overheating."

MS Society tips to stay cool are:

  • Have a cold bath or fill a hot bottle with ice
  • Run a cold tap and let the water flow over the inside of the wrists
  • Wear a cooling vest

Dr Katherine Fletcher, from Parkinson’s UK, said most people think those with the illness just suffer from tremors.

But she pointed out those with Parkinsons are "also prone to struggling with their mental health" and fatigue.

"We know heatwaves are here to stay," she said. "I think there are lots of things that can be done."

Fletcher would like to see the government introduce changes and adapt the UK’s infrastructure.

"That comes down to things like making sure people are financially able to buy fans and air con units - we all have lived in houses and flats that are just unbearable in heat."

She also wants public transport to be upgraded.

"People still need to be encouraged to get out and about and I think, making sure public transport is adapted and has air con and is comfortable during the heatwave is really important."

Gemma Thickett from Rethink Mental Illness explained certain types of medication can affect temperature regulation  "which means you might be more prone to overheating".

This is common in people who take antipsychotic medication to control conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

"Now is a good time to check the information leaflet that comes with your medication, or look online, to see if you need to be extra careful in this hot weather," she said.

Thickett added the heatwave is "another important reminder to prioritise your mental wellbeing and know what you need to do to stay well".

Rethink Mental Illness tips to stay cool are:

  • Some medications might mean you sweat more, so drink little and often, before you feel thirsty
  • A lack of sleep can be a trigger - try and keep your home cool by keeping windows open but shielded from sunlight
  • Adjust your routine by working from home or somewhere cooler, like a library, and avoid a sweaty journey
  • If you feel like your mental health is dipping, don't hesitate to contact your GP or mental health team

 The highest recorded temperature for the U.K. is 101.7 degrees (38.7 Celsius), which was set in Cambridge in 2019.