In summer, heat waves can strike areas of the country where cooler climates are the norm. In these areas, many homes do not have air conditioning, and surviving in the extreme temperatures becomes a challenge for everyone. The following steps can help you keep cool during a heat wave even if you have an air-conditioned home.
- Use box fans and ceiling fans to promote air circulation throughout your home. Opening doors in the house and using box fans to push hot air outdoors can function as an "exhaust" system and draw cooler evening air into the house. In the cooler evenings, open all windows and promote as much air circulation as possible. When the sun rises, close all doors and windows, making sure to close curtains and blinds as well, to keep the indoors cool for as long as possible. When the outside air cools to a lower temperature than inside (usually in the evenings or at night), open up the windows and turn on the fans again.
- Take advantage of the cooling power of water. Fill buckets or basins and soak your feet. Wet towels and bandannas can have a cooling effect when worn on the shoulders or head. Take cool showers or baths, and consider using a spray bottle filled with cold water for refreshing spritzes throughout the day.
- Head downstairs. Since hot air rises, the upper stories of a home will be warmer than the ground floor. A basement can be a cool refuge from the midday heat.
- Eliminate extra sources of heat. Incandescent light bulbs can generate unnecessary heat, as can computers or appliances left running. Eat fresh foods that do not require you to use the oven or stove to prepare.
- Remember to maintain an adequate level of hydration, which means you'll need to consume more water than you usually do when it's hot. If you're sweating profusely, you will also need to replace electrolytes by eating a small amount of food with your water or by drinking specially-formulated electrolyte replacement drinks. Thirst is the first sign of dehydration; you should drink sufficient amounts of fluids before you feel thirsty in order to prevent dehydration.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages and caffeine, as both of these substances can act as diuretics and promote dehydration.
- For a homemade "air conditioning" system, sit in the path of a box fan that is aimed at an open cooler, or pan filled with ice.
- Try to visit public buildings with air conditioning during the hottest hours of the day if the heat becomes unbearable. Libraries, shopping malls, and movie theaters can all be good places to cool down.
- Don't eat large, protein-rich meals that can increase metabolic heat and warm the body.
- Be able to recognize the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and true heat emergencies (heat cramps, heat rash, heat exhaustion, heat stroke). Call emergency services (911) in the event of a heat emergency and try to cool the victim until help arrives.
- Finally, remember that pets also suffer when the temperature rises. Cooling animals (dogs, rabbits, cats) by giving them a "cool" bath or shower will help keep their body temperature down. A cool towel on a tile floor to lay on, a cool towel or washcloth laying over the skin next to a fan will also help cool the animal. Make sure they have plenty of cool water to drink as well. Signs of a heat stroke in a pet are:
American Red Cross. Heat Wave Safety Checklist.
The Humane Society of the United States. The HSUS Advises Pet Owners to Keep Pets Col during Heat Wave.