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Do It Better: How to Beat the Heat

By Joyce Venezia Suss

The heat of a torrid summer day can sap your energy and make you feel crabby. It can also be dangerous for the very young and elderly. Even if you have air conditioning – or want to cut back on your energy bills – there are other ways to help you cool down.

• Lower your window shades and/or keep curtains closed during the day, especially in windows that get a lot of sunlight. If you have a window that gets full-on sun for several hours, consider covering it with foil or reflective insulation to reflect light out of the room.

• Close doors and vents in unused rooms and closets, to concentrate cool air in the rooms you do use.

• Limit outdoor activity to early morning or after sunset. If you want to get out of the house, visit a public place that has air conditioning, such as a library, mall or museum.

• For maximum efficiency, replace your air conditioning filter at the start of warm weather. If you run your A/C a lot, you might want to replace it mid-summer too.

• If you don’t have air conditioning, use fans and position them so the moving air hits your body. Ceiling fans should be set to turn counterclockwise when looking at it from below, so the air creates a cook breeze. To switch the direction, turn off the fan and look for the switch on the side of the fan base. The proper blade direction also reduces the need for air conditioning to run constantly.

• During heat advisories, avoid using appliances that emit heat, such as the dishwasher, clothes dryer and oven. Instead of cooking with heat, serve salads and cold soups. Iceberg lettuce isn’t the most nutritious variety, but it’s loaded with water and delightfully crispy on a hot day. If you want a warm meal, use a microwave, hot pot or outdoor grill.

• Eating spicy foods and drinking hot tea are popular in tropical climates – for a good reason. Foods seasoned with hot peppers increases your internal temperature and makes you sweat, which helps cool you down faster. Also, drink lots of room temperature water to prevent dehydration. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks.

• Your body uses more energy to digest large, heavy meals, so opt for smaller, lighter meals eaten throughout the day.

• On hot days, wear loose, light-colored clothing. If you must be outside for a while, invest in a cooling neck gaiter, a special type of scarf that feels cool to the touch when dampened and won’t annoy you with dripping.

• Use bed sheets with cooling features. Good Housekeeping Institute has a textile laboratory that tests various sheets and recommends those with “temperature-regulating technology” that wicks away sweat. 

• Take quick cool showers to get instant relief.

• Don’t forget pets, especially those with thick fur. Change their drinking water frequently. Some pet collars have a special pocket to hold chilled packs, but you can also wet and freeze a bandana to use as a cooling collar. Pets also love cold basement or garage floors during a heat wave.

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