How to keep cool during the dog days of summer

sunDo you get cranky and uncomfortable in hot weather? I certainly do. And when I was recently laid up at home with a nasty cold, I cursed at everything, including the heat. Many thoughts went through my congested brain as I sat at home, sweating, coughing and hating life. Here are some relating to today’s topic:

Thought #1: It’s hot.

Thought #2: I wish we had central air conditioning.

Thought #3: Why couldn’t I get sick in, say, January?

Thought #4: Well, at least it’s not August or September, the hottest months of the year.

Keeping cool in the summer heat takes more than just a cold drink and turning on the fan. In truth, when it’s really hot, those will barely make a dent in your comfort. Of course, you could just escape your hotbox of a house and go to the movies or the beach or pool. But there’s actually a lot you can do to make a hot day at home more bearable.

sodawater• Lose the shirt. Toss on a tank top instead of a t-shirt (believe me, it really makes a difference). Choose light-colored, loose clothing with natural fabrics, like cotton or silk.

• Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water. Add mint or slices of cucumber or citrus fruit to make it more refreshing.

• Find a cool spot and take it easy. Try to sit in shady areas and avoid windows and walls that face the sun. Fanning yourself will just make you warmer. Instead, find something relaxing to do.

• Cool down your bed. Other than using an electric fan in your bedroom, consider silk or satin sheets. Or, try this: Hang your bedding in the coolest room during the day. When you’re ready to go to bed, return the cooled covers to your bed and enjoy.

• Freeze a bag of chopped fruit. Frozen fruit, ice pops, or just a cube of ice can cool you down nicely for a while.

• Remember that warm air rises. Yes, warm air rises because it’s less dense than cool air. Find that cooler spot in the lower level of your house and, if you need to, set up a temporary lounge area for yourself.

• Enhance your electric fan. Place a few glasses filled with ice in front of your fan. The fan will catch the cold air coming out of the cups and blow it straight to you. Try this: My husband found another use for old tofu containers. Fill one with water and put it in the freezer. Once frozen, you can put the whole thing in front of your fan. Once it melts, you can just refreeze. They also make great ice blocks for any purpose.

fanOn the hottest of days, you also need to focus on cooling down your body. Other than jumping in an ice bath, we have a few suggestions:

• Keep cold packs handy. I have a few plush aromatherapy cold packs in my freezer. They’re soft and smell like lavender, but they don’t stay cold for long. I recommend the reusable cold compresses you can buy at the drug store. Even when they’re frozen, they’re bendable so you can put them on your forehead or stomach comfortably. You can even freeze a small towel for the same effect.

• Wet your clothes. Yes, wet your clothes. This is a good idea if you’re going to be moving around, like doing chores. You don’t have to wet your whole shirt. For t-shirts, just wet the sleeves. For shorts or skirts, just wet the hemline.

• Cool your wrists. If you run cold water over your wrists for about 10 seconds, your body temperature should be cooler for about an hour. Try this (with our friend the freezer): Leave a pair of wrist sweatbands in the freezer for an hour or so. Put them on and enjoy. If you have two pairs, you can rotate them.

wrist• Cool your feet. Soak your feet in cold water to lower your body temperature. Or, here’s a suggestion: Put a pair of socks in the freezer for an hour or so and then slip them on. Practical? No. Enjoyable? Potentially.

• Get the air in your home moving. Every room in my house has at least one fan. Some rooms have two or more. But merely turning on a fan and pointing it at your face probably isn’t the best solution. If you learn how to create cross ventilation, you can cool down your house year-round.

What’s cross ventilation? Basically, it’s when cool air flows into an area and pushes out warm air. The ideal cross ventilation set-up is a room with two sets of windows that face each other. Cool air comes in one window and pushes warm air out the other window.

If you want to cool down a room in your house, make sure all windows and doors are open, if possible. You can create cross ventilation with fans, too. Most sources say to aim your fan at the window to pull the warm air out of the home.

If you have any tricks for coping with the summer heat, we want to know about them. Tell us in the comments section, or on Facebook or Twitter.

One comment

  • Here’s an option that can help cool your whole house: put in an attic fan AKA a whole house fan system.

    All that heat mentioned above (yes, pun intended!) rises and mostly stays in the attic. An attic fan blows the hot air out and can make a big difference. During tests in Ohio summers of 2006 and 2007 (day temperatures up to 100 degrees), the attic fan was twice as effective at cooling the house, and was 25 times more energy efficient than using air conditioning.


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