Ten Tips to Keep Your Cool During a Heatwave

Storms across Eastern U.S. affecting large parts of Washington, Virginia and Maryland have left millions without power, and the heatwave shows no signs of shifting. Here are our tips for how to handle the heat.

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REUTERS/Tami Chappell

Turner Field vendors Demetrius Smith (L) and James Jernigan use bags of ice to stay cool while working at the baseball game between the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Nationals at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia June 30, 2012. A record-breaking heatwave has covered most of the country with temperatures expected to be 105 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius) in Atlanta.

  1. Turn Your House Into a Cave. With no air-con, the only option for keeping your house warm is to stop the hot air from getting in. Window reflectors are a great starting point: cardboard wrapped in aluminium will keep the light and heat out. Just make sure you have the reflective side on the outside, otherwise it will have the opposite desired effect. Alternatively, keep your blinds drawn and windows open so that some air gets in. 
  2. Sweat. While this may be an unpleasant option, you may have no choice but to embrace your body’s novel way of cooling you down. To help the process, make sure to keep yourself topped up with fluids and electrolytes and avoid wearing make-up and creams – they clog up your pores and get in the way of the sweat.
  3. Have a Wet T-shirt Competition. More fun that just simply sweating, the wet t-shirt helps keep your skin in constant contact with cool water and aids the cooling down process. Alternatively, try soaking some sponges in ice water and putting them down your top – it’s what the triathletes competing in Hawaii’s Ironman competition do.
  4. Take a Shower. After all that sweating and the wet t-shirt competition, you probably don’t smell so great. Take a cool shower or bath to fully appreciate the cooling and cleansing, powers of water. 
  5. Eat all of the ice-cream. Now. With the power out, it’s important to eat all of the perishable goods that won’t survive out of the freezer, especially if said goods are ice-cream. The Food Safety and Inspection Service have very helpfully compiled a list of the life-span of foods left out of the fridge/freezer. You’ll find yourself on a diet of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but stay away from dairy, meat and fish as it goes off very quickly.
  6. Have a Cookout. Rather than throwing away all of the food that won’t keep, why not indulge in a cookout and invite the neighbors round? Avoid protein-rich meals though, which can warm the body and increase metabolic heat.
  7. Look Out for the Vulnerable. Not everyone is well equipped to handle the heat on their own. Those who are most susceptible are the elderly, the sick and children under five. Make sure to read up on the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke so that you know when to contact emergency services. Heatstroke is a severe condition which needs immediate attention: symptoms include seizures, red-flushed skin, a body temperature above 106 degrees Fahrenheit and no signs of sweating. 
  8. Use a Flashlight, Not a Candle. It may seem obvious, but candles are probably not the wisest light sources during a power outage in a heatwave. You’ll want to avoid using matches and open flames as much as possible. 
  9. Hang Out at the Mall. Or the cinema, local library, recreational center or gym. Maybe even your office. Many public buildings should still have air-conditioning and other sources of entertainment. You could read a book, charge your phone or just watch a film. 
  10. Take a Nap. A siesta is a perfect antidote to dealing with all the heat, stress and boredom that you’ll invariably experience. Taking a nap in the middle of the day also has proven health benefits, so it’s a win-win situation.