HOTTER than Jamaica! Red alert! Highest temperatures ever recorded! Close the schools! Cancel the trains! Don’t travel! Don’t even move! Roads are MELTING!

When it comes to the weather, it’s fair to say that we Brits are a bit dramatic.

And with the UK experiencing its hottest day, and night, on record this week, the panic has reached fever pitch. “People are going to die. Even the fit and healthy are at risk,” said one newsreader, with a glint in her eye.

The bewildering swarm of beat-the-heat advice is enough to bring on a dizzy spell. Over the past few days I’ve learned that rubbing raw onion on your skin keeps it cool, closing the windows keeps heat out (sorry, but I have my windows open in winter so there’s no way I’m closing them in a heatwave), and a sock full of rice in the freezer is the answer to pretty much everything, from keeping pets cool to surviving a 25C night.

This week my emails have been mostly a steady stream of Extreme Heat Hacks: ‘How to keep your home cool in the heat’; ‘How to get your baby to sleep through hot nights’; ‘Helpful hacks for motorists in the heat’; ‘Tips for the elderly to keep cool’; ‘The best family-friendly activities to have fun in a heatwave.’

Some of it is quite useful: ‘Put damp towels in the fridge, wrap in a bin liner and use to sit on or wrap around the body’ sounds weirdly appealing.

Then there’s teaching granny to suck eggs: ‘To cool down, fill an empty spray bottle with cold water and spray yourself. Alternatively, if you feel extremely hot, a cold shower is always a good idea.’ Er, thanks for that.

Those of us who recall the long hot summer of ‘76 might wonder what all the fuss is about. If other countries can cope with extreme heat, why do we get in such a tizz about it? Do we really need to be nannied through a couple of hot days?

Actually, yes, I think we do. We live in a country that is not designed for extremes of temperature because we don’t generally have them. We don’t have summers that reach highs of 41C, so this week’s record-breaking heatwave has been cause for alarm, and so it should.

We tend to roll our eyes when extreme weather causes travel chaos, but the UK’s transport network wasn’t built to cope with extreme heat. Someone from Network Rail explained the other day that rail tracks in this country are built to withstand temperatures of between -10C and 35C. If the air gets any hotter than that, tracks get even hotter and are at risk of buckling, and trains derailing. Roll your eyes all you like, but trains have been cancelled not for knee-jerk panic, but for our safety. If temperatures continue to rise this country’s infrastructure would have to be replaced with a kind that can cope, but that would take decades, say transport chiefs.

Despite all the beat-the-heat emails clogging up my inbox, I’m thankful for the advice, because record-breaking heat can be dangerous. I grew up on Public Information Films warning of all kinds of dangers - open water, electricity pylons, fireworks, crossing the road - and in the summer of ‘76 the briefly appointed Minister for Drought appeared on telly in a suit and tie, telling the nation to share its bath water. The weather was making headlines back then, just as it is now.

When I’m wrapping myself up in a bin liner with a damp towel in it, to cool down for 10 glorious minutes, there’s comfort in knowing that whichever weird way we’re getting through this, we’re in it together.