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Linda Byard

If you are wondering how to “keep your cool,” during the occasional heat wave, without air conditioners or other expensive devices, these tips may help you:  


Close your windows in the morning, generally before 9 AM, or as soon as the outside temperature begins to exceed the temperature inside your house.  Cover each window with a shade or blind, or even make-shift protection to cut down on solar heat gain. Open your windows at night to capture the cooler night air.  Buy fans to circulate the air in your house during the day and to draw cool air inside at night.  Let some of that air blow on you too!


Turn off and unplug any appliances not in use which may be giving off heat.  This might include your computer, your television set, and  lamps with little power boxes.  If you can feel any heat coming from a device, unplug it.  Don’t turn on any lights unless you need them, and if you do, use fluorescent fixtures.  Let kitchen and bath exhaust fans vent hot air to the outside.  Run your dishwasher at night.


Wear loose fitting clothing made with comfortable materials.  Experts often recommend cotton or linen for hot weather.  But you might also try some of the new fitness clothing which wicks moisture away from the body.  Try to avoid outside activity, especially during the hottest part of the day, but if you must, wear light colors, put on a hat, and try to stay in the shade.  Now is the time to get your hair cut short and let it hang loose so as not to hold in any extra heat around your head.  


Try to figure out some ways for the whole family to sleep on the first floor during a heat wave even if the bedrooms are on the second floor.  The floor is probably the coolest spot if you can figure out a way to cushion your body without also making it hotter.


Eat lightly with an emphasis on foods which have high water content.  Fruits and salads fill the bill here.  Your body creates heat when digesting protein, so stay away from those big hot meals.  If you need to cook, use the microwave or an outside grill, not your oven.  This might be the perfect time to splurge on carry-out from a favorite restaurant or convenience food from the supermarket.


Dehydration can easily accompany high temperatures and this is where the elderly and the very young sometimes get into trouble with heat related problems.  If you take only one piece of information away from these hints, take this one: Drink water and drink it all day long.  Do not drink anything with alcohol or caffeine in it.  These both have a diuretic effect on the body, and may leave you dehydrated.


Postpone necessary heat generating activities until temperatures are at their lowest: generally from four to seven AM.  That may be too ambitious but you can still try to time your chores for morning or evening.  Be as lazy as you can, and if you are home, consider a siesta from 3-4 PM which is when the daily temperature generally peaks.  If “lazy” freaks you out, there are still productive things you can do all while being a couch potato.  Here are a few examples:  get an early start on your annual holiday letter, catch up on e-mail, sort out photographs, pay your bills, plan and make arrangements for your next vacation. Or telephone friends, shop on the internet, read a book, or research a big purchase.


If possible, spend time where it is air conditioned or known to be cool.  Typical places are movie theaters, malls, libraries, and restaurants.  Go swimming or try hanging out under a big shade tree.  Some people swear by their personal water-spritzing bottles and even a little hand fan can bring some relief.  Making a hand fan is a perfect small art project for the kids on a hot day.  In your own home, go barefoot and put cold things next to your body like wrapped frozen gel packs, or cold, wet washcloths.  Take a seriously frigid shower; make sure you wet your hair too.  Your young children might enjoy an afternoon in the tub with cool water and some appropriate toys.


While we may have little energy during very hot weather, find enough to check on your elderly neighbors and relatives to make sure that they are all right and drinking enough fluids.


Try not to be frustrated by what you can’t do or how uncomfortable you are.  Here is why: Heat waves don’t last.  For now, you have a perfect excuse to be a slacker and perhaps even the inspiration to make some changes in your life.  Take full advantage of the situation.  Before you know it, winter will be on its way and you will be looking for tips on how to stay warm.

Linda Byard

      More useful and interesting articles from Linda Byard:
         Driving in the UK Take your life in your hands
         The Transatlantic Journey - Surviving Long Flights
         Keeping Cool - How to survive in the Summer Heat Wave


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