With summer fast approaching and the heat beginning to pick up, you may be wondering how you’re going to survive this time? In this guide, we aim to arm you with the ability of staying cool, so fear not.
This is the first post of a four-part series on ‘How to survive the summer’
We begin with the ‘no-brainers’. However, judging by the amount of people that seem to neglect this essential act, we feel that we must stress upon it. Drink cold water regularly throughout the day!
With the amount of sweat leaving your body, surely you would’ve thought to replenish some of the water. Drinking water will help you to do just that and stay hydrated. Drinking cold water will help to reduce your body temperature and allow you to cool down. On an average day, you’re recommended to drink around 2 litres of water, and on a hot day perhaps you would want to drink slightly more, but too much could lead to a condition known as hyponatremia, where your blood becomes very diluted. We recommend that you buy yourself a water bottle and remind yourself to take regular sips throughout the day.
When you sweat you don’t only lose water, but also electrolytes (essentially salts and minerals) which may not be provided in adequate amounts in your regular water. Instead if you have been sweating (perspiring) a lot, perhaps from exercising during the heat, you should drink an isotonic drink (a sports drink), or perhaps even electrolyte-enhanced water. This doesn’t just apply for exercise, but also if you have diarrhoea or are vomiting.
Also if you have noticed your urine has become darker, take it as an (unpleasant) reminder from your body to drink more water.
A better alternative to water is…Milk! Not only will it hydrate you better, but it will also provide your body with essential electrolytes. It’s basically the equivalent of killing two birds with one stone.
Avoid Alcohol and Limit Caffeine for Dehydration
Caffeinated drinks are believed to have a small diuretic effect on the body, however research on this matter has provided mixed results as to the actual effects of it- some suggesting the effect is very mild and others suggesting it perhaps should be taken note of. We believe it is best to err on the side of caution in this matter, and limit your intake of caffeinated drinks this summer regardless.
On the other hand, research on alcohol is quite conclusive- it is a strong diuretic. Alcohol generally leads to increased water loss in urine by reducing the amount of antidiuretic hormone (ADH) produced by your body, decreasing the amount of water reabsorbed by your kidneys, and therefore making your urine less concentrated, and causing you to urinate more often. So you’ll basically be losing a lot of water, which is not something you should do this summer, so we recommend not consuming any alcohol this summer.
Occasionally Drink Hot Tea
Now, this may seem counter-intuitive and even counter-productive given that we had earlier told you to drink cold drinks to cool down. However, who knows better than the Bedouins about surviving heat, so bear with us.
The Bedouins live in the desert and deserts are known to be areas of very low humidity, so perhaps this advice may not apply for everyone. Hot drinks or even soups are shown to increase the sweat production (perspiration) of the body, which in turn cools the body down. This is because a major component of ‘sweat’ is water, which has a high latent heat of vaporisation and a high specific heat capacity, meaning it takes a lot of energy to actually heat water and a lot of energy before it actually evaporates so the water in your sweat is able to transfer a lot of heat away from your body once it evaporates from the surface of your skin.
A similar effect could also be achieved by consuming spicy food.
If you are going to follow this advice, do so in moderation.
Cotton clothing is believed to better at absorbing sweat and also releasing it to the atmosphere than synthetic materials. Cotton clothing also tends to provide more comfort, a welcome addition during the summer- a season which is known to make some more irritable.
Loose clothing would mean that there’s less clothing actually touching your skin, not only providing additional comfort but also helping increase the flow or air around your body and increasing the rate at which your sweat evaporates and transfers heat away from your body.
Light or Dark Clothing
However, the Bedouins once again beg to differ. They opt for dark clothing, which is better at absorbing heat, and so better absorbs the heat your own body emits and again helping you to cool down.
Our verdict is to try out both and see which works for you.
Shade, Hat/ Cap
Again, if our clothing recommendations don’t particularly suit you, you could simply try to change where you are and at what times you’re there.
Always try and seek an area of shade, which can drastically reduce the temperature compared to the surroundings. This applies for everyone, whether you’re on holiday, at home or at work- shade is absolutely vital.
Now, if you know that will be difficult to fully achieve you could still put on a summer hat- ranging from a baseball cap to a bucket hat. Heck, you could even wear a cowboy hat (depending on where you are and how many people are around.) Head covering of any sort can go a long way. If you want more protection than headgear can offer, perhaps you could try using a parasol!
Now once again, the Bedouins. The Bedouins also wear headgear known as the shemagh/ keffiyeh, which is also the traditional Arab headdress for males. There are many uses for it, but we’ll only focus on its cooling effects. Firstly, it serves to prevent direct sunlight ‘hitting’ your head and face which is similar to what shade provides (though not identical), drastically reducing the temperature you will feel and also protecting you from sunburn. Secondly, it is used by wetting the actual cloth and then wearing it the same way, transferring more heat away from your body/head.
You could also try something similar even if you don’t happen to own a keffiyeh, by wetting a baseball cap (or any other headgear which readily absorbs water) just enough so that it provides the same cooling effect. However, do not make it soaking wet, just damp enough.
Avoid Peak Hours (perhaps sleep), and Wear Sunscreen Daily
This links directly to the point above. If you already live in a hot country, this won’t be news for you.
Try to not be out during the peak sunlight hours which vary depending on where you are in the world. Arrange you travel before and after peak sunlight hours, and if you don’t have work at that time try to get some sleep. This will not only help you keep cool and allow you travel at ease, but also protect your skin over the long term by limiting your exposure to sunlight when it is most intense.
Also, make sure to apply a UVA/UVB Sunscreen with an SPF rating of at least 15. This should help you to avoid/reduce exposure to harmful UV rays from the Sun, which in the long-term combined with shade, headgear and avoiding peak sunlight hours should help to reduce the chances of you developing skin cancer.
Heat Blocking Curtains
If you are going to be at home, we recommend installing heat-blocking/ thermal curtains, which as the name suggests will keep the room cooler. You could also install blackout curtains which will cool rooms in summer and keep them warm in winter. It is best to use these in conjunction with other room-cooling techniques, as alone the effects may not be really significant. You could opt to keep the windows open to allow for the flow of cool air around the room, however that may not always work.
Instead we recommend installing an air conditioning unit to further reduce the temperature of the room. If you think you’re rarely going to use an AC at other times of the year or you think it’s not worth buying, you could also look into hiring an AC unit for the summer. Alternatively, you could buy electric fans which will help air circulation around the room, and when aimed at you it will help the sweat on your body evaporate faster.
You could also place a bowl of ice in front of the fan so that it also helps spread ‘cooler’ air as it helps evaporate the surface layer of water on the ice. Or you could look into buying an air cooler fan, if you’re not willing to go through the struggle of preparing bowls of ice every day.
An AC, a fan or even an open window can help to reduce the humidity of a room. Why would you want to do this? To make it easier for sweat to evaporate from your skin, by increasing the water potential gradient between your sweat and the surroundings.
If you haven’t tried a cooling spray before, why not make it a goal to do so this summer? Cooling sprays are quite effective at providing some immediate relief from the heat. Just use as directed on the packaging. And maybe try to sneak a spray on your feet.
Be sure not to confuse this with a freezing spray, such as those used for sports injuries. They are not the same thing!
Cold Moisturisers in Fridge/ Cooling Aloe Vera After Sun
If you’re not willing to buy a cooling moisturiser, you could simply stick your normal moisturiser in the fridge at the start of your day, and return home to your very own ‘cooling’ moisturiser. Be sure that the bottle is tightly sealed to prevent any leakages.
Cool Pulse Regions
Try to target your pulse regions when cooling off. These are areas where the blood flows close to the surface of your skin, such as your wrists, inside of your elbows, and also your neck. You could run cold water over these areas, or apply an ice pack wrapped in a towel on them (wrapped in a towel so that it isn’t freezing cold as to being uncomfortable, but just cool enough to help you relax.)
Now there are many pulse points all around your body, and you probably aren’t going to be able to target them all in one go especially if you’re at work, school or simply outside.
However, if you are indoors make sure to take a cold shower. Perhaps you could start your day with a cold shower, and even you really want to you could also end your day with a cold shower. This will to help to reduce your body temperature, remove any sweat present, and any residue (salts) of that which has ‘dried’ off on your skin.
Also, if you’ve been exercising then this really isn’t even an option. It’s a must.
Swimming in cool water can help your body to gradually transfer heat away to the water itself and reduce your body temperature. Just make sure that the water isn’t freezing cold, as a sudden, dramatic drop in body temperature can increase your risk of hypothermia- a potentially life threatening condition.
Also, be sure that you can actually swim. Over the past few years in the UK, there have been many drowning and water-related deaths in the summer as people have also tried to cool off. This could be avoided by using a swimming pool, where water temperatures are usually regulated and are not as low as in rivers, lakes, canals etc. Even confident swimmers are prone to drowning in cold waters.
Smaller Meals Regularly/ Avoid High Protein Food
The overall digestion of food is a heat-releasing process. Therefore, the more food you eat the more digestion takes place. However, the overall release of heat during digestion and subsequently respiration may not be overly significant.
Side note: body temperature is found to be slightly higher in high protein diets.
Again, we recommend you should try out smaller meal sizes this summer and see whether it makes you feel more comfortable.
Also, make sure to not eat at least 2-3 hours before going to sleep.
For further information you may want to look up ‘the Krebs Cycle.’
Turn the Lights Off
The effects of turning lights off is said to have a very minimal effect on overall room temperature. And it depends on many factors such as the size and power of the bulb (e.g. lamp vs spotlight), how many bulbs there are, type of bulb, room size etc.
If you have an incandescent bulb, it might be worth it switching off as most of the energy used by it is given off as heat. If you’re using a newer LED, perhaps not.
There are also people who go further by switching off appliances, and again the effects will vary depending on many factors.
Some say that the perceived effects of this are simply psychological.
Either way it might be worth turning off given that there’ll be plenty of natural light during the summer, and you might find you actually do feel cooler. You’ll also save on your next electricity bill!
So Called “Egyptian Method”
We aren’t sure if the ‘ancient Egyptians’ really came up with this, but that’s just the name this has been given.
It basically involves wetting a towel/blanket/top sheet and then wringing it until it is only damp, and then using it as a blanket at night. Now some people say that this simply makes them feel uncomfortable, others say it works. We’ll leave that for you to decide.
However, just to take it up a notch, after preparing your damp sheets you may want to try placing them in a fridge or freezer for 30 minutes to 1 hour before going to sleep.
If you are going to try this you might want to place a towel down first to prevent your bed from becoming wet. And again, make sure that the sheets are not wet but just damp.
The Spread Eagle Position
This is a sleeping position where you spread out your arms and legs to increase surface, and increase the rate of heat loss from your body helping to cool you down.
It is also better to sleep alone than with a partner, as a partners’ body heat will only further increase the temperature of the bed.
Sleeping Lower Down
Warm air rises, and so sleeping lower will mean that you are slightly cooler. This may mean sleeping closer to the ground, or in the basement, or even the bottom bunk.
Sleep Outdoors at Night
If you’re planning to sleep during the day, common sense dictates not to sleep outdoors where there’s direct sunlight. However, during the night sleeping outdoors may even be a better option than indoors, as depending on humidity and cloud cover night temperatures may be drastically cooler than day-time.
You may want to be some mosquito repellent if you’re particularly prone to mosquito bites.
Room-Temperature Dishes and Avoid Oven
If you’re out to stay cool this summer, the last place you want to be is in a kitchen preparing sizzling-hot food- especially if the kitchen is small to begin with, making it feel ever more stuffy and humid.
Instead you may opt for preparing room-temperature meals, or even order in food. But whatever you do, try to avoid using the oven at all costs.
Portable Electric Fan
This could be in the form of a hand-held electric fan, or a table-top fan. Now there are also handheld misting fans available, although you could also buy a simple misting spray bottle and fill it with cold water.
These are some tips we hope will actually benefit you this summer and help keep you cool. Let us know in the comments below if these have helped you out and whether there are any other tips you personally use.