Keeping Cool: 7 Ways to Beat the HeatWritten by Tigre Haller
The first day of my last visit to Paris was the stuff romantic dreams are made of. The mid-June temperature was perfect. Lovers strolled arm-in-arm along the Seine. The special Parisian light glowed. The bistro was très charmant.
The next day, it felt like Hell had opened up and swallowed the entire city. It was the beginning of a deadly heat wave in Europe. No matter how I tried to stay fresh and cool, it was impossible.
My mind was in a constant heat-induced haze. A haze made worse by the fact the Parisians, as they do, somehow looked cooler and more aloof than ever. They were like a mirage in the desert, daring the heat to bead their perfect brows with one drop of sweat.
I, on the other hand, was a dirty, grungy, dripping mess of a tourist. One who was ready to jump into the Seine.
I’m no stranger to humidity, au contraire. Coming from New York, I’m all-too familiar with melting asphalt, baking concrete, damp everything, a particular odor and a molten mind. I can’t tell you how many mornings I spent mopping the sweat off of my body in the men’s room upon arrival at my office.
There was no escape from the swelter. Not even in the shower.
Dry heat is something else entirely. My one visit to Phoenix, Arizona taught me I wasn’t built for the arid environment either. The strange sandy sensation in my throat, the feeling that the sun was peeling away layers of skin and the constant running from one air conditioned place to another are not experiences I ever want to repeat. (The tumbleweed was sweet though.)
Why am I telling you this and probably making you hotter than you already are?
To let you know that relief from the heat is possible. And, it takes much less effort than you might think.
Here are 7 easy ways to beat the heat (or just stay in your mancave without moving the entire summer):
1. Dress Light and Loose
Tempting as it might be to stay in your birthday suit, or your bathing suit, all day, is it really an option? When you need to get dressed to face the world, keep cool and stylish with these summer fabrics:
Cotton is extremely breathable and wicks moisture away from the skin. The fibers actually sit away from your skin which allows for greater air circulation and ventilation. Cotton is also soft and absorbs a lot of moisture, making it ideal to deal with sweaty situations. An added benefit of cotton is that it doesn’t hold on to odors and bacteria as much as synthetic fabrics do. So, you can stay cooler and fresher longer.
Linen is stiffer than cotton, but it is also highly breathable. The air flows through the fibers and creates a cooling effect along your skin. Linen is also absorbent and removes moisture from the skin. Don’t worry about your linen shirt or pants getting wrinkled - that’s part of the charm. If you want to stay wrinkle-free for as long as possible, fresh pressing or dry cleaning of your linen garments will give them a bit more structure and help them maintain shape.
NOTE: While the moisture retention properties of cotton and linen are great when in the heat, they might cause you to get chilly if the temperature drops, or if you enter air conditioning.
Chambray is a woven fabric that resembles denim. However, chambray is made with a plain weave which allows it to stay cool in the heat and hold its shape. Since the bluish color is similar to denim, the fabric tends toward the casual side and is used primarily for shirts.
Hemp is a great fabric for warm weather. Like linen and cotton it breathes well, and it’s mildew and moisture resistance makes it perfect for humid climates. Hemp has also been shown to block UV rays. Pretty cool.
TIP: For maximum air circulation, wear loose, flowy shirts and pants when possible.
2. Be Prepared
Before you leave home, go through this handy checklist to make sure you’re ready to face another hot day:
|Sunblock- At least 30 SPF (it will block 97% of UVB rays).
|Umbrella - their like portable shade.
|Hat - with a wide enough brim to cover your face and neck, like a Panama Hat.
|Sunglasses - keep those UV rays at bay while shading your peepers.
|Water or Replenishing Beverage - hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
|Beach towel and Frisbee - hey, you never know…
3. Read, Watch and Listen
Just like reading about heat makes you hotter, reading about the cold, watching a snowy scene and listening to wintry sounds can help make you feel cooler.
Pick up a book set in winter, like The Call of the Wild by Jack London, sit under a shade tree, lay in your hammock or dig your feet into the sand and enjoy the wintry adventure.
Here are a few other titles that will give you the shivers:
The Shining, Stephen King
Snow, Orhan Pamuk
Mr. Dickens and His Carol, Samantha Silva
Boundless: Tracing Land and Dream in a New Northwest Passage, Kathleen Winter
That’s what I call a cool summer reading list!
For your viewing pleasure (and chilling effect), check out:
Dead of Winter
If you prefer to just sit back with a cold compress (see below), download some tracks that amplify “the sounds of winter.” A blizzard has never sounded - or felt - so good. Brrrrrrr…
4. Cool the Pressure
Do you know where your pressure-points are? Also known as pulse points, this is where you can feel the blood pumping through your veins. They are also where you can find fast-acting relief from the heat.
By applying a cold compress to them.
The easiest to find pressure points are at your temples, the sides and back of your neck (at the brainstem), behind your knees and at your wrists.
There are many commercially available ice packs and cold packs, but you can make one easily by taking some of that ice out of the drinks bucket and wrapping it in a towel or other cloth. Place it on a point and apply some pressure.
What’s it doing? It’s actually cooling your blood, like the liquid in an internal air conditioning unit. So, the cool blood will circulate, and cool off your entire unit - uh - body.
If that’s not enough, fill a tub with ice and slide right in. Just don’t spend too much time in there. Hypothermia ain’t fun.
5. Block It and Shut It Down
There’s nothing like a cool, dark, room.
According to the Department of Energy (DOE), “about 76% of sunlight that falls on standard double-pane windows enters to become heat.” Wow! But, you can shut out the heat by closing blinds and drawing curtains in the morning - and keep them shut all day long.
The DOE suggests, “medium-colored draperies with white-plastic backings can reduce heat gains by 33%.”
Remember, as tempting as it might be to open your windows to let the breeze in, when the outside temperature is hotter than inside, you are only inviting in the heat monsters. Grrrr.
Instead of using the drying cycle of your dishwasher, why not air dry or hand dry your dishes?
Avoid using your clothes dryer altogether. Hang your duds outside or on a laundry rack. This won’t only save you from the heat, it will also save some money.
Also, try not to use your stovetop or oven. Hey, isn’t warm weather barbequing weather? If you’re not into grilling (even if you are), toss together fresh salads, filling smoothies, cooling soups, hearty sandwiches, and refreshing ceviches. Nutritious and cooling - a win-win.
6. Hydrate and Replenish
You probably already know that drinking 8 eight-ounce glasses of water a day is the bare minimum for keeping hydrated. When it’s hot, you sweat out at least that much. So, consume more water and hydrating drinks with electrolytes (not energy drinks). Avoid the ones with high sugar and / or caffeine. They will wire you up, and after a while, tire you out.
You can also make your own hydrating beverage. Here are the basics:
1.5 cups Water
1 tsp sea salt or Himalayan salt
¼ cup each fresh squeezed lemon and lime juice
2 tbsp honey or agave
Combine all ingredients, stir well to dissolve the salt and honey or agave. It’s like a virgin margarita or mojito. Speaking of which…
You might also want to cut down, or cut out, alcohol. If you do imbibe, be sure to balance each drink with at least one - if not two - glasses of water.
Eat more hydrating fruits and vegetables such as citrus, cucumber, celery and watermelon. Delicious and restorative.
7. Check the Signs
Be extra attentive to your body. According to the Centers for Disease Control, symptoms of heat related illness include:
- Muscle pain
- Rapid pulse
- High body temperature
If you experience any of these symptoms, get to a cool place as soon as possible, get hydrated, replenish electrolytes and call 911 in case of emergency.
So, you see, you can beat the heat without much effort. I hope these tips help you and yours enjoy the season to its fullest. Have fun!