Summer in the States – Keeping Your Cool
Whatever their winters, many states in the U.S. experience significant heat in the summer. Obviously there are places that never get too unbearable, but across a lot of the country temperatures often hit the 90’s (32+ Celsius). In many areas, there’s also humidity, which makes everything so much worse and is unlike anything we experience back in Blighty.
Obviously, air-conditioning helps, but if the summers are relatively short, some homes don’t have it. If the situation becomes dire, you can purchase portable AC units at Home Depot and the like; de-humidifiers also help. Just don’t leave it till the last minute as they sell like hot cakes when the temps start rising. Other than that, it’s important to keep your doors and windows shut. A cross breeze is nice, but if it’s humid, it usually means the air isn’t moving and you’ll just end up with a hotter, more humid house or apartment. Similarly, keeping your drapes closed will significantly reduce the temperature in the room, as will running fans if you have them. More off-beat suggestions include filling a hot water bottle with ice-cold water, and popping your sheets in the freezer for an hour or two before hitting the sack. (Probably best to put them in a bag first, by the way.)
It’s also important to keep the old bod cool during hot and humid weather. British guests of mine often complain of a hangover-like headache when visiting in the summer, a sure sign that they’re not drinking enough water. Keeping yourself hydrated is crucial when severe, dehydration can be life threatening, so don’t be an idiot. Other symptoms of dehydration are constipation, thirst, dry skin, dizziness, decreased urine output, dark yellow urine, sleepiness and in babies, fewer wet diapers (nappies). Pregnant women in particular, should take great care to remain hydrated unless they want to end up in a hospital bed on a drip. Water and Gatorade-type drinks are recommended, although soda drinks that contain caffeine are no longer thought to contribute to dehydration.
Other tricks for staying cool, calm and collected in the summer are to schedule outdoor activities in the morning. Although it can sometimes be staggeringly humid as soon as you get up, that’s still usually the lesser of all evils. Summer evenings can be just as hot and humid as the days, so don’t assume it’ll cool down like it does on the Mediterranean. (If you’re staying at a high altitude, you should have cooler, more pleasant evenings.) A visit to the local pool is a sure-fire way to cool down, but remember to wear a sun shirt or apply sun screen frequently. If there’s no pool available, consider dipping your feet in the kids’ paddling pool. Note – if you live in a swamp-type area, it’s a bad idea to leave that pool out overnight, as it becomes a magnet for mosquitoes.
When outside, you can buy hand-held fans, some of which also have a bottle of water attached that sprays a fine mist. Wearing a wet scarf or bandana round your neck (or on your head) is also very effective although it’s not everyone’s fashion choice. Running cold water over your wrists will cool you down and splashing your face will keep your head from exploding. If you’re a baseball cap wearer, turn it round to keep the back of your neck shaded, which will help your entire body think it’s cooler.
What you wear can also contribute to your warm weather comfort. You may not have worn seersucker since you were five, but it has long been a fabric of choice in the hottest southern states, and for good reason, it is lightweight and comfortable. While I’m not suggesting that everyone decks out in seersucker, it’s a good idea to keep your fabric as lightweight and natural as possible. Anything remotely synthetic quickly becomes about as comfortable as plastic wrap, and jeans are a complete no-no. If you’re in a hot but dry environment, covering up in lightweight clothing helps protect your body from the sun and keeps you cooler.
What have I missed? Please share your tips for staying cool in the summer.
And please, please, don’t forget to keep your pets safe too!