Keeping your cool in warm weather isn’t just about attitude––your body needs extra attention too. Risks of getting too hot in warm weather include dehydration as you go about your daily activities or overheating and risking suffering from heat stress, heat cramps or even heat exhaustion. Keeping your body cool will also help to keep your mood calm too, for heat often exacerbates feelings of stress, tension and frustration. There are lots of simple and effective ways to stay cool in warm weather and most of them are very affordable.
1. Stay out of the sun while it’s at its hottest.
This commonsense approach isn’t always easy to adhere to when summer fun beckons, so it bears repeating. Avoid exercising, traveling, sitting and walking about in the noonday sun as much as possible. It’s best to limit your sun exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. each day during warmer months. When you are outside during these times, limit your exposure to heat by retreating to shade as much as possible and not exerting yourself. Most of all, drink plenty of water.
- If you’d normally exercise or work outdoors during the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. during cooler months, be prepared to change this schedule when it’s hotter. Slow down, it’s not worth pushing yourself strenuously when it’s hot outside; things that require a lot of physical effort can be done early in the morning or later in the day.
- Spend more time in air-conditioned places when the heat is excessive. Visit public buildings such as the library or a store if you don’t have adequate air-conditioning at home.
- Some people are particularly vulnerable to heat and should stay in cool places during hot weather, such as children, the elderly and those who have health problems.
- While sunscreen and sunglasses don’t necessarily have a cooling effect, their protective effect is vital during warmer weather, as well as being painful and damaging, sunburn reduces your ability to release heat from your body and causes you to lose body fluids. Be sure to use them.
2. Plan ahead.
Whatever you’re doing outdoors, having a plan will help cut down on unnecessary activity in the heat. For example, if you’re hiking, study the map at the beginning of the day and calculate the best route, especially one that makes the most of shade where possible. If you’re swimming, even though water is cooling the sun will bear down on you, so figure out how long you can safely swim before needing to get out and dry off, and stick to this time limit. If you have to travel a lot during hot days in your vehicle, plan ahead by having your vehicle inspected and ensuring that your air-conditioning is in working order; also, keep a plentiful water supply on board for constant re-hydration. By having a plan, you can set time limits on your exposure to the heat and plan ways to minimize the effects of the heat before you head into it each day. Always be sure to stick to your time limits by prioritizing and leaving less important things to be finished when it’s cooler.
- As part of your planning, spend time watching the weather forecasts. In the USA, NOAA produces a heat alert based on Heat Index Values. The importance of this measure is that it tells you how hot it will really feel outdoors when the relative humidity has been factored in with the actual air temperature. Don’t go simply on the temperature but pay attention to the meteorological assessment of the heat potential. However, also be aware that heat index values are devised for shady areas and light wind conditions, if you’re under full sunshine and in the presence of strong winds, the heat factor can increase by up to 15°F.
3. Dress simply.
Lightweight, loose-fitting clothing will help to keep you cooler, even better if it is light in color as this will reflect the heat and sunlight better. Shorts and short sleeved shirts are good choices, although a lightweight long sleeved shirt and pants are preferable if you’re hiking or working outdoors for any length of time, as this provides more protection against the UV rays. Cotton clothing tends to keep you cool; be careful of synthetics as they can increase heat, although some synthetic clothes are specifically made to reduce heat (check the labels).
- Don’t forget your head. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, as this helps to keep you cooler by providing shade. However, in extreme heat, such as the desert Southwest, a hat will retain heat. Try using a bandanna folded into a triangle and wrapped over your head as is often seen on bikers – this actually wicks sweat away from your head, spreads it over a large area where it evaporates and reduces your scalp temperature. And always add sunglasses.
- Consider wearing less makeup. Too much makeup can impede sweating and make you feel hotter, especially around your facial area. A little matte powder for oil control may be suitable. For makeup and cosmetics that you do wear, consider storing them in the refrigerator. They’ll be refreshingly cool when applied to your face, body and feet straight from the fridge.
- Wear less accessories during hotter weather. Metallic accessories can heat up considerably and less is always best when it comes to keeping cool.
- If you’re worried about body odor, you might want to skip camisoles and tank tops, as these can make body odor more noticeable.
- If you have long hair, wear it up and off your face and body. If you have short hair, consider keeping it very short to minimize the insulating effects of hair.
4. Wear footwear that breathes.
Flip flops are great for some activities, but more strenuous activities require arch support, durability, and comfort. Sport sneakers are great, but be sure you have worn them beforehand, so they won’t rub your feet and give you blisters. Remember to wear socks, preferably ones that wick away moisture to help keep you cool and comfortable. If you’re going to the beach or pool, wear water shoes to protect your feet from the heat of beach sand and from sharp items in the water. For urban wear, sandals and flip flops are generally ideal for keeping your feet cool.
- Converse are not good shoes for intense summer fun, as they provide little arch support equipped with special inserts.
- Be careful if you decide to go barefoot. Many artificial pavements become unbearably hot during warm weather and can scald your feet. Also watch out for sharp objects and doggy-do when going barefoot in places such as parks and the beach.
5. Stay hydrated
Water is essential for keeping your cool during hot weather. Water keeps your body cool and should be drunk even if you don’t feel thirsty. It’s okay to also drink commercial waters (such as Vitamin Water) or energy drinks such as Powerade or Gatorade but they’re usually not necessary unless you’re deliberately replenishing lost vitamins/electrolytes or energy following a sporting activity. Purchase a durable water bottle or water pack that you can tote everywhere and refill at any safe water tap.
The best way to check your hydration level is to measure your urination frequency and color – if you haven’t gone in a while, you need to drink more water and if the color is dark, you need more water.
- Freeze a bottle of water to carry around with you. It’ll be solid when you leave the house but the heat will start melting it from the moment you take it out of the freezer and you’ll benefit from the continuously chilled slowly thawing water. Wrap in toweling or similar to prevent water condensation affecting other items in your bag.
- Stay away from sugary drinks such as sodas and do not drink alcoholic drinks. Minimize caffeinated drinks, such as tea and coffee because these tend to increase dehydration.
- As well as drinking water, use it to spritz yourself cool too. Fill a spray bottle with pure water and place in the refrigerator at home or work. When you feel too hot, spray a fine mist of the cooled water over face and body to help cool you down quickly. Refill as needed and keep refrigerated.
6. Eat to stay cool.
Food can keep you cool provided you make the right choices. Prefer salads, fresh raw food, vegetables and fruit. Avoid eating meat and protein-heavy foods during the heat of the day because these can increase metabolic heat production, which can add to loss of water.
- Avoid eating junk food––it lacks healthy nutrients, is often hot and greasy and won’t give you the energy needed to cope with the heat. If you must eat junk food, keep it for the cooler hours of the day or year.
- Find foods that don’t need cooking, so that you don’t have to turn on the stove. This might be a good time to experiment with some raw or paleo food choices––check out recipes online, in a good book or from your local library.
- Cold soups are great in warm weather. If you haven’t tried them yet, hot weather is the excuse you need!
7. Use fans.
Whether hand-held or electric, fans can keep you cool by continuously circulating air. Paper or battery-operated fans can be used almost anywhere–at work, at home or on-the-go. In your home and office space, locate fans in rooms where you are working or resting to keep the air circulating freely and to reduce the mugginess of heat.
- Try making your own “swamp cooler”. This can be done by simply placing a bowl of chilled water in front of a fan and letting the fan air blow over it. Other methods include wetting a large piece of fabric, such as a towel or sheet, and hanging it in front of a fan (taking care to angle it so that it cannot catch in the fan) and let the air blow through the wet material.
- Fans tend not to be useful when temperatures hit the high 90s (Fahrenheit) or high 30s (Celsius), although a swamp cooler arrangement might work still.
8. Allow yourself time to acclimatize if traveling.
Travelers often make the mistake of trying to maintain normal levels of activity when arriving in a country warmer than the one they’ve left. This is a mistake that can result in harm. Rather than pushing yourself, give yourself time to acclimatize to the new warmer environment, which means minimizing physical activity until the heat feels more tolerable. This will usually take a few days, so plan a restful period at the commencement of a vacation in a warmer place. Once you feel more comfortable in the heat, gradually build up your physical activities until you’re back to your normal level.
- Rest is an important way of coping with too much heat. Don’t deny yourself the opportunity to rest when you feel fatigued during warm weather. In high heat, consider moving slowly to prevent overheating.
9. Make a game out of staying cool.
Kids know how much fun it can be to find playful ways to stay cool and there are some really enjoyable ways to stay cool when it’s hot, whatever your age. Here are just a few suggestions to take all the seriousness out of staying cool:
- Turn on the sprinklers, gather your friends and run through them for a time.
- Increase the fun by making water balloons and throwing these at each other. The aim is to get hit in order to cool down, so remind everyone to stay in the spirit of cooling down instead of trying to dodge them.
- Have a pool party. Cover the pool with a shade cover if it doesn’t already have one and spend time partying by––and preferably in––the pool. Avoid alcohol though––have plenty of cool and refreshing chilled mocktails and other cold non-alcoholic choices for everyone to enjoy. No pool? Get a kiddy pool and fill it up and paddle in it under shade.
- Have an afternoon of making and eating your own frozen treats, including ice cream, popsicles, slushies, frozen fruit, etc. Invite friends around to make it a party event.
- Make use of commercial venues that provide cold entertainment. The cinema is often freezing, so it’s a good choice. Or visit a water park or ice skating rink. You could even devise a game with friends to find the coldest buildings in your city or town that permit public access. Is it your library or your local ice cream parlor that’s coldest inside?
10. To have a hydrant body in warm weather try going to the local pool and lots of water.
And stay out of the sun for a hydrant body in warm weather.
- Taking cool baths, sponge baths or having cool showers often can help to keep you cool.
- Swimming is a great way to stay cool but again, don’t stay in sun-exposed water for too long when it’s between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Keep pets cool during warm weather too––they have limited ability to cool down, especially if they’re not able to leave an environment where you’ve enclosed them.
- Keep the back of your neck and head cool.
- Be sure to keep an eye on children’s water intake and give them plenty of water during hot weather.
- Pour a little ice cold water into your hat or cap, then place on your head. It’ll cool down your head area quickly.
- Reapply sunscreen according to package directions. Always apply 20 to 30 minutes before heading out into the sun. Sunscreen should have an SPF factor of at least 15+ but not higher than 50+. Remind children to reapply, as they can easily forget.
- Wear deodorant when it’s warm. This will keep you smelling good and feeling good. However, antiperspirant deodorant will make you sweat less (sweat will help you cool down).