Brace yourselves, there’s hot air coming up from the south and I’m not just talking about the incoming heatwave or last night’s leadership debate. A cloud of nostalgia which can cause serious health problems has reached our shores.
This new dominant strain called ‘1976 heatwave’ is likely to replace the previous variants, ‘we never had central heating’ and ‘I grew up on offal and there’s nothing wrong with me!’
Facebook has been reliably quick off the mark, offering startling advice such as, ‘We just got on with it” and something tedious about snowflakes.
So, the summer of 1976 was a hot one. We know this not because 13-year-old Tony was there gaily playing marbles in a dried-up brook or cheerfully fetching a pail of water from a well but because loads of people died. The Independent reports the UK experienced a 20 per cent year-on-year increase of “excess deaths” that summer, with a huge spike in “hospitalisations as a consequence of sunstroke and heat-related heart attacks.”
Also, and this is an important one, temperatures reached a maximum of 35.9c. While this is indeed hot the next few days are predicted to see record-breaking temperatures of 40c and above in some areas. This has never happened here before. Ever. We lack the infrastructure to deal with such heat and it marks a huge increase from even the highest temperature recorded (38.7c) in terms of both science and the impact it will have on public health, that’s us lads!
Here in Thanet, we’re lucky to be on a lesser amber alert – although this could change – and surrounded by our beautiful coastline but it is important to remember the isle has a disproportionately high number of vulnerable people living here. People, like in the pandemic, who are at greater risk at becoming seriously ill which in turn places even more pressure on our exhausted NHS.
So, I am generally pleased for all those who managed to ‘just get on with it’ in 1976. But today rather than posting a poem about how kids played on their bike all day without a whiff of heatstroke and doors were left unlocked, perhaps just check in on your neighbour instead and support local, if possible.
I’ll be staying in with my toddler but given the opportunity I’d be lunching at an independent isle restaurant and buying a sun hat from a shop. I might even take a stroll into Margate Caves or Ramsgate Tunnels.
Top tips for coping in the hot weather include:
- look out for those who may struggle to keep themselves cool and hydrated – older people, those with underlying conditions and those who live alone are particularly at risk
- stay cool indoors by closing curtains on rooms that face the sun – and remember that it may be cooler outdoors than indoors
- drink plenty of fluids and avoid excess alcohol
- never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle, especially infants, young children or animals
- check that fridges, freezers and fans are working properly
- try to keep out of the sun between 11am to 3pm, when the UV rays are strongest
- walk in the shade, apply sunscreen and wear a wide-brimmed hat, if you have to go out in the heat
- avoid physical exertion in the hottest parts of the day
- make sure you take water with you if you are travelling
- take care and make sure to follow local safety advice if you are going into the water to cool down
- check medicines can be stored according to the instructions on the packaging
Jodie is a mum and journalist based in Margate