How to Cope with the Heat: Staying Cool and Calm In Hot Weather

Fact checked by Olga Sadouskaya, MD
Clinical Pharmacologist, Chief Medical Officer

Many people look forward to long, lazy summer days. However, there is a fine line between warm weather and extreme heat.

When the temperature rises and humidity is all-encompassing, it can feel unbearable. If you're not careful, it can cause you to overheat and threaten your health.

So, what should you do to protect yourself from the blazing heat?

This article will explore the dangers of extreme heat and guide you through easy ways to keep cool.

The health risks of extreme heat

Your body has an innate ability to regulate your core temperature and maintain it at a healthy 98.6 F. Most of the time…

Intense heat puts stress on your body's cooling systems. For example, high humidity makes moisture cling to your skin, preventing sweat from evaporating. This makes it difficult to cool down fast enough and contributes to overheating.

It may lead to heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion and heatstroke, as well as the following symptoms:

  • Dehydration
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Sweat pimples
  • Sunburn
  • Heat edema causing swollen hands and feet
  • Rapid heart rate

Excessive heat can affect even the healthiest among us. However, the elderly, pregnant women, children, overweight people, athletes, and outdoor workers engaging in intense exercise need to take extra care in hot weather.

Melting ice cream to show extreme heat

6 tips to stay cool in the heat

We’ve compiled our top tips to cope with hot weather. Whether you're currently living through a heatwave or going on vacation to a hot climate — these tips will help you regulate your body temperature and feel better.

1. Dress light

When your body temperature creeps up, a couple of things happen:

  1. Sweat evaporates off your skin to cool you down.
  2. Blood vessels in the skin dilate, allowing heat to escape quickly.

So, how you dress in hot weather makes a big difference to your ability to stay cool. It's all about light materials and colors.

Wear loose garments that are thin and breathable to encourage an exchange of air and allow sweat to evaporate easily.

Cotton, linen, and silk are all good options to keep you from overheating.

Pay attention to light-colored clothing — white, cream, and light pastels — so you reflect heat instead of absorbing it.

2. Plan ahead

When hot and humid weather is forecast, planning can be a life-saver.

Organize your day so that you can stay indoors from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. — when the sun is at its hottest. If you aren't at home during these times, seek refuge in an air-conditioned office, shopping mall, library, or restaurant.

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WeatherWell helps you stay informed about the changing weather that may affect your health and well-being.
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Check the forecast for your area using the WeatherWell app and plan outdoor activities when the temperature, humidity, UV index, and Heat Stress Index are lowest. If you want to exercise or socialize, early mornings, late afternoons, and evenings are the best times.

Finally, schedule regular rest breaks throughout your day — the heat takes it out of you!

3. Cool down in water

Cool water on your skin is one of the quickest ways to bring your body temperature down.

When the heat starts encroaching, get in the shower or bath and run cool water over your skin. Jumping in the swimming pool is also a good option. However, make sure it's a quick dip. Being outdoors in direct sunlight during the middle of the day increases your risk of sunburn and dehydration.

Here are some other ways you can cool down with water:

  • Make a cold compress by dipping a cloth in a bowl of ice water and dabbing it on your forehead, neck, chest, and pulse points.
  • Drape a cold, wet towel around the back of your neck.
  • Soak your feet in a tub containing cool water and a few ice blocks.
  • Fill a small spray bottle with ice water and spritz your face, neck, and chest when needed.

Try these tips before bed to encourage restful sleep on hot nights.

4. Rehydrate

Dehydration is one of the risks associated with soaring temperatures — and it can happen quickly.

Your body excretes water and minerals via sweat. It's essential to replenish your fluids throughout the day to cool down and prevent dehydration and heatstroke.

A woman drinking water to stay hydrated in extreme heat

Drink liquids — water, fresh juice, smoothies, iced tea, coconut water, and electrolyte drinks — at regular intervals, aiming for 2-3 liters daily. You can also add crushed ice in your drink to lower body temperature in case of overheating. However, avoid alcoholic beverages in the heat as alcohol contributes to dehydration.

You can also boost your hydration levels by eating fresh fruit and hydrating vegetables like cucumber, celery, tomatoes, and lettuce.

5. Prepare your home

Whether you're at home or experiencing a heatwave while on vacation, creating a haven from the hot weather can make a big difference.

Keep your home cool by turning on the air-conditioning and closing the blinds and curtains in areas of the house that get the most sun.

If you don't have an air conditioner, use a fan and cross-ventilate by opening windows on opposite sides of the house. You can also place a bowl of ice water in front of the fan — being careful not to create an obstruction — to cool your space down quickly.

Heat rises, so stay on the ground floor and avoid spending time in the upstairs and attic of your house. If your bedroom is on the upper level, make a temporary bed downstairs until the heat passes.

6. Practice sun safety

The sun's rays are potent in summer, making it easy to get sunburnt. Sunburn interferes with your body's ability to cool down and contributes to dehydration and sunstroke — not to mention the risks of premature wrinkles and skin cancer.

Check your skin type using Fitzpatrick scale to know how long you can stay in direct sunlight and always wear a broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen that's an SPF of 30 or higher. If you're swimming, use waterproof sunscreen and reapply every 2-3 hours.

Even if you feel like walking around in minimal clothing, wear loose-fitting clothes and a hat when you're outdoors in the middle of the day. In addition, seek respite under large trees as much as possible — this will provide the deep shade needed to cool you down fast.

Closing thoughts

We hope the tips in this article help you handle the heat more effectively.

Keeping cool will make the hot summer months more enjoyable — and you'll notice more energy and well-being.

Please seek medical attention if you're experiencing confusion, muscle cramps, nausea, weakness, headaches, or fainting due to the heat. You may have heat stroke, which can be dangerous if left untreated.

October 14, 2022