Staying Cool During Extreme Heat: Crucial Tips as Extreme Weather Escalates

image of the sun over a city skyline

As the realities of climate change continue to make their mark on our planet, increasingly frequent and intense heat waves have become a new normal for many regions worldwide. The city of Phoenix set a 31-day record of days with temperatures over 110 degrees, and Maui's iconic Lahaina town, once the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom, was entirely wiped out and reduced to ashes by wildfires caused by extreme drought conditions. The global thermostat isn't just inching upwards; it's taking big leaps, and it's imperative to adapt to this changing climate.

While global policymakers and environmentalists grapple with the broader challenges, at an individual level, finding ways to stay cool has become critical. Drawing inspiration from both modern-day solutions as well as traditional methods, here are some tips and tricks to help you keep the heat at bay:

 Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!

  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Sweating is our body’s natural way to cool down, but it also means we're losing essential fluids.
  • Have some electrolyte drinks at hand, or fix yourself a suero with ingredients you might already have on your fridge – just some carbonated water, limes, and salt to help you rehydrate.
  • Avoid sugary, alcoholic, or caffeinated beverages, as they can cause dehydration.
  • Watch out for signs of dehydration, such as feeling dizzy or lightheaded, headaches, overall tiredness, and having a dry mouth, lips, and eyes.

 Stay Indoors During Peak Heat

  • When possible, avoid going out between 10 AM and 4 PM when the sun is at its peak.
  • If you need to be outdoors, seek shade regularly, take breaks, and don’t forget to hydrate.

Keep Your Home Cool

  • Open your windows during the cooler parts of the day (early morning and late evening) to let the cool air in and close them, drawing the curtains or blinds, during the peak heat.
  • Create natural shade. Consider planting large-leaf plants or tall trees outdoors that offer some shade. Opt for potted plants to cool your indoor spaces, balconies, or patios.
  • Even a basic fan can make a significant difference in circulating air from room to room and making your house feel cooler.
  • If the heat is too much to handle at home during peak hours, consider spending some time in air-conditioned public places such as malls or libraries.

Lower Your Body Temperature

  • Use cooling towels, neck wraps, or handheld fans. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; a hand towel drenched in cold water will do. Take them with you when you go outside.
  • Placing cool cloths or ice packs on pulse points like wrists, neck, and ankles can help lower your body temperature. Remember abuela putting a wet trapo on her neck while gardening? She knew what’s up.
  • Misting sprays can also offer relief when it's sweltering. Fill a spray bottle with water and keep it in the fridge. A quick spritz can be refreshing!

 Wear Light and Loose Clothing

  • Wear clothes made from natural fabrics that help your skin breathe, such as cotton, linen, silk, hemp, rayon, and chambray. Wearing loose clothing also allows for better airflow to keep you cooler.
  • Opt for light colors like white and beige, as they reflect sunlight and absorb less heat.
  • Hats with wide brims can protect your face and neck from direct sun exposure.

Take Cool Showers or Baths

  • Taking a cool shower can quickly bring down your body temperature, especially after spending time outdoors. Just make sure to adjust the water temperature gradually to avoid shocking your system as you transition from hot to cold.
  • Inspired by the ‘pila’ – a large, often outdoor, sink or wash basin common in rural areas of Latin America – set up a small inflatable pool or even just soak your feet in a basin of cool water. It's a quick way to cool down and relax.

Limit Physical Activity

  • If you can, reschedule strenuous activities to early morning or late evening.
  • Remember, the body produces more heat during physical activities, so take it easy and avoid breaking a sweat when possible.

Seal Your Home

  • Block out the sun by using blackout curtains, shades, or reflective window films.
  • Ensure that your home is adequately insulated to prevent the entry of excess heat and to retain cool air inside.

Opt for No-Cook Meals

  • Cooking can heat up your home considerably. On very hot days, consider opting for salads, sandwiches, and other no-cook meals. Ceviche is a perfect example. It's delicious, refreshing, and doesn't require turning on the stove! Just say no to that summer caldo.

Stay Informed

  • Monitor local weather updates and heat advisories. Knowledge is power, and in this case, it can keep you safe.

The increasing heatwaves aren't just uncomfortable; they can be dangerous. It's essential to take precautions and employ whatever strategies we can to keep cool.

As the world grapples with the broader impacts of climate change, remember that a little planning and some simple tricks can go a long way in ensuring you and your loved ones remain safe and comfortable.

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