Columnist Jeni Harvey: How to keep a cool head in the summer heat

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Summertime weather is a curious thing.

Here in the north of England, we spend 50 weeks of the year complaining about it being too cold, wet, windy or snow-covered – but then, the minute it does get hot, people are falling over themselves to moan that they can’t cope.

Ironically, it also seems to be those who moan that it’s ‘too hot’ who also embrace their summer wardrobe at the first sign of the temperature going above 20c. Forget keeping cool under light layers of cotton – no chance. It’s bikini tops in the Peace Gardens, hotpants on Fargate, even if in all likelihood it’s going to be raining again by lunchtime.

This hysteria around summer, I think, is partly to blame for the fact that it’s extremely difficult to get hard evidence around how to keep safe in the summer when you’re pregnant. People are so keen to burn their pasty-white shoulders and give themselves food poisoning with undercooked barbecued chicken you can’t blame the NHS for keeping its guidance strictly on the vague and super-safe side.

I’m currently expecting my second baby and, as someone who likes to keep fit, I went searching for some official advice on how best to stay active when the mercury is rising during the recent hot spell. According to the NHS website, I should avoid any ‘strenuous exercise’ while pregnant, but there’s no clarity as to what strenuous means.

I want facts, research, evidence – but there’s nothing easily available. So I’ve interpreted the guidance to mean I can carry on running in the sun, but should start to walk if it gets too much…others might interpret the guidelines differently.

Then there’s hayfever. At this time of year, my eyes are streaming and I’m permanently sniffling, but can I buy anti-histamine over the counter? Can I heck. My GP says Piriton is ‘safe’ but can’t ‘officially’ tell me that. Great.

Barbecues are a minefield. Obviously alcohol is a no-no, but steaks? Cook them to a tasteless crisp, the advice goes. Same for poultry, pork, sausages, mince and burgers.

Maybe I’ll just have cold meat from the deli? That’s fraught with danger too, apparently, as Parma ham, chorizo and pepperoni might contain ‘toxoplasmosis-causing parasites’. Fish? watch that too. Salmon, trout, mackerel and herring can contain ‘pollutants such as dioxins and PCBs’, whatever they are.

For official advice from Sheffield Council on keeping safe in a heatwave see Sheffield Council-Heatwave Plan