Thursday, July 8, 2010

It's Freakin HOT Outside least that has been my mantra for the last couple of days. While we aren't suffering in our area like they are on the East Coast, the temps did top 90 today and us Pacific North Westerners just aren't used to such extreme weather. Here's how to stay cool and relatively healthy during these hot summer days:
  • If you must exercise outside, do it early before the temperature starts to heat up. I saw a guy jogging down the street today at 3pm and he looked like he was going to keel over. Yikes.

  • Keep hydrated. The hotter the weather, the more important it is to drink lots of water (not coffee, soda, beer or other "thirst-quenchers" which really aren't...scientifically speaking).

  • Go where it's cool. In our house, it's the basement. In our city, it is any number of large public buildings (library), shopping centers (mall), or other public places (movie theater, etc).

  • Break out the fans and air conditioners. If your home has central air, you are golden. In our area, most homes don't have central air simply because the temps only get super hot in this area for a week or so each year. This means we need to bring out our fans and room air conditioners; we generally keep one room air conditioned and try to minimize our time in other parts of the house during the hottest part of the day.

  • If you don't have/can't afford/don't want to hang out at the mall or set up your own air conditioner (or like some people in our city who experienced a power outage during the hottest part of the day today), here's some "old fashioned" tricks for keeping your home cool. Years ago we had maybe one fan and no air conditioner and no malls (yep, that was a long time ago). What we did when it got hot was open all of the doors and windows in the morning to let the cool air into the house then when it started to heat up, we would close the doors and windows and close the curtains on the "hot" side of the house in order to try to keep the cool air in. The one and only fan would be set up over a try of ice which would add a bit of coolness to the air, and often if it wasn't too sweltering outside, the whole family would sit outside under a shady tree (with a book or something, remember this was a long time computers). People who had to work outside (most of us since this was farm country) would head out as soon as it was barely light in order to get work done before the heat of the day. We would then come back for lunch and take a nice long "siesta" until it started cooling off and we could go out and work again until sun down. Of course spending the afternoon fishing under a shady tree was another option...

  • If you must be outside, be sure to cover up (hats, long-sleeved light-weight shirts) and wear sunscreen.

  • Never leave pets or kids in the car. In this high heat, a car can turn into an oven in minutes.

  • Make sure to keep the kids and pets well hydrated as well.

  • Check on your elderly neighbors and relatives. The elderly often have a difficult time regulating their body temperature and can overheat without even knowing it. This can lead to coma and death. Make sure the elderly have a cool place to shelter and ensure that they stay hydrated too.

  • Many communities set up "cooling shelters" during the hottest summer days. These places are definitely a good option if you have no where cool to hang out and your home feels like an oven.

  • Head for the beach or mountains. Local beaches, lakes, and rivers have been packed the last couple of days around here. Obviously take precautions such as wearing sunscreen, and swimming only in safe swim areas (note that fast-flowing rivers look inviting but can be deadly because, in our area anyway, they are often cold, fast, and have plenty of snags on the bottom). Hypothermia and exhaustion also disproportionately impact swimmers in our area which can lead to drowning. At the ocean, tides and rip currents are dangers that swimmers need to be aware of.

  • Eat light. Eating a huge meal during the heat of the day is not such a good idea which is why salads and lighter fare is often preferred when the temperatures rise.

  • Get prepared for the next time a heat wave hits. I still see people running to the store and buying out all of the fans and air conditioners available during the first couple days of hot weather. Didn't these people remember the heat wave last year? Make a note that if you do need to buy fans or air conditioners, to do so at the end of the summer season when these items are on sale. Store the items over the winter, and you will be all set next summer and won't have to run to the local Walmart with the hoards of other unprepared people.

  • Take a cold shower if necessary. Since I live in a colder climate but travel often to equatorial areas where it is HOT, I often end up taking a cold shower two or three times a day until my body gets acclimated to the hotter weather. It works.

  • If you don't know what the signs of heat stroke and heat exhaustion are, find out. Also find out how to treat these problems.

Eventually this too will pass but it makes sense to make yourself as safe and comfortable as possible during the hottest days of summer.

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