Be Prepared for Extreme Heat

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Extreme heat can pose significant health risks. Knowing how to keep cool can save lives, so be sure to take care of yourself and others – including pets – in the coming days.

  • Stay out of the sun as much as possible.
  • Drink plenty of water. Keep a bottle of water with you at all times and stay hydrated. Your body will feel cooler. Adding mint leaves, or orange, lemon or cucumber slices to your water makes it more tasty and refreshing. Keep a close eye on children, babies and the elderly, and ensure that they stay well hydrated also. When you’re sweating a lot, either because of exercise or the summer heat, drinking enough water becomes even more important. Also, avoid alcoholic beverages and caffeine, as both of these substances can act as diuretics and promote dehydration.
  • Wear loose fitting clothes in light colors and natural fabrics. Dark colors absorb more heat and stay warmer longer than light or white clothing, which reflects light and heat. And cotton, linen and silk breathe much better and cool the skin more than anything made from artificial fibers. Ditch the socks and shoes and don some flip flops if you can–the feet are one of the body parts that tend to overheat. Finally, soak a t-shirt in the sink, wring it out and put it on while sitting in front of a fan.
  • Keep cool with water. Keep small spray bottles filled with water in the fridge and apply a fine mist on your pulse points (inner elbows, behind the ears and knees, your wrists and neck) to cool the blood down. Also, by applying ice cubes wrapped in a towel (or any other cold object) to these pulse points, you’ll cool down more quickly and effectively. Running cold water over your wrists for 10 seconds on each hand will reduce your temperature for roughly an hour. The body radiates heat from the hands, feet, face and ears, so cooling any of these will efficiently cool the body. Fill buckets with cold water and soak your feet. Wet towels or bandannas have a cooling effect when worn on the shoulders or head. Saturate a sponge in water, put it in a plastic bag and freeze; then take it out and put it on or behind your head. Take a cool bath.
  • Get a fan. A fan on a low setting can keep a light breeze blowing across your room and keep you cool. Ceiling fans are best for hot climates, but for occasional heat, stand up fans like these will do. To boost the effect, drape a cold, damp towel on the front of the fan or place cups of ice in front of it to blow cooler air around. When you’re not in a room, turn the fan off. If you face your fan out, rather than in at night, your room will stay cooler and you might sleep more comfortably. If you have a ceiling fan, run it counter-clockwise (the “summer” higher-speed setting) for optimum cooling.
  • Close the curtains. When the sun’s out, close the curtains and blinds, especially at peak hours, and then close them at night when the sun is down. If the air is hotter outside than inside, keep the windows closed. You can also hang a damp towel in front of the window to cool the air flowing into your home, and open opposing windows or windows on the top and bottom floors for maximum air flow.
  • Stay downstairs if possible. Since hot air rises, the upper floors of a home will be warmer than the ground floor. You may feel more comfortable sleeping downstairs–or better yet, in the cooler basement.
  • Eat fresh foods that don’t require the use of an oven or stove to prepare. Also, avoid large protein-rich meals that can increase metabolic heat and warm the body.
  • Flick a switch. Lights and appliances can raise the temperature indoors when turned on, so turn off all heat sources – including stoves, computers, TVs and lamps – whenever possible.
  • Sleep cool. Take an ice-pack wrapped in a hand towel with you to bed. Chill your pillow-cases by placing them in plastic bags and sticking them in the freezer for a few minutes for cool dreams.
  • Get physical, but exercise comfortably. Avoid rigorous activities such as biking, hiking or jogging, or wait until after the temperature has dropped. You can get used to exercising in the heat and use common sense strategies such as switching to water sports, avoiding the sun when it’s strongest, and exercising in short bursts. Precooling techniques can also prevent you from overheating when you work out in hot weather.
  • Hair care. Slick your hair back with water a few times a day to stay cool–the head is very sensitive to temperature and will keep your body cool for hours if it is also cool. If you have long hair, be sure to keep it up in a bun or ponytail.
  • Don’t forget Fido! Ensure that pets have a cool place to relax, and cool, clean water to drink.