07/23/2024

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If you live in a heat wave, it’s understandable to have questions about what steps you can take to stay cool. Here’s what experts suggest you do to ride out the heat wave while staying safe

Stay out of the sun
If your home has air conditioning, stay indoors and use it, Cheryl Nelson, a FEMA-certified natural disaster preparedness instructor, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. But if your house is not air conditioned, she recommends going to a cooling center, library, shopping center or “any public place that has air conditioning.

Nelson says, “If you’re home at night without air conditioning, open the windows for ventilation and sleep on the lowest level of your house – cold air sinks and hot air rises.”

Run fans to increase ventilation
If you have a ceiling fan, Nielsen recommends keeping the blades rotating counterclockwise. “When your ceiling fan spins quickly in that direction, the air is pushed downward, creating a cool breeze,” she says. Only portable fans? “If you have a lot of ice, put the ice cubes in a tray in front of the fan. The air from the fan blowing over the ice helps cool your space,” Nelson says.

Focus on hydrating foods
The foods you eat can help keep you hydrated, as well as drinking fluids. “During a heat wave, I recommend eating vegetables and fruits such as cucumbers, celery, lettuce, strawberries and melons,” Nielsen says. She says soup is a “good choice” because it contains sodium, which can help replace lost electrolytes. (If hot soup feels like too much on a hot day, you can drink it cold.)

Stick to smaller and more frequent meals
“Digestion heats up the body,” Dr. Mark Conroy, an emergency medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. That’s why he recommends eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. “If you know you’re going to be hungry, it’s best to eat a hearty breakfast when it’s still cool and a hearty dinner in the evening when it’s a little cooler,” he says.

Also, be aware that you may need to eat more during the day. Dr. Lewis Nelson, professor and chairman of emergency medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, told Yahoo Life that “your caloric needs and water loss increase” in the heat.

Keep windows and curtains closed during the day
This helps prevent heat from the sun, Nielsen said. If you don’t have air conditioning, she recommends opening windows and curtains at night to allow cool air to circulate and let heat build up inside during the day.

Keep an eye on the temperature in your home
If you don’t have air conditioning, the temperature in your home will be hotter than outside even with the windows open, Nielsen said. “If you can find a shady tree to sit under, it’s probably cooler outside,” he says.

Try to avoid running high energy-consuming appliances
Appliances like dryers and ovens “just add more heat to your house,” Nielsen says. If you can, try using them when it’s cooler outside.

Take a cool – not cold – shower
“If you take a cold shower or bath immediately after the heat, your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate will change rapidly,” Nelson said. Cold showers and baths can also cause shivering, which can make your body hot, she notes. Her advice: Shower with cold water, and if you feel particularly overheated, apply ice packs to your head, neck, wrists and other pulse points to keep cool.

If you don’t have air conditioning, leave doors open in your home
This keeps the air moving, Nielsen says. “At night, the open windows in the front and back of your home create a cross breeze that circulates air through your home to cool it down,” she advises.

Push the fluid
“On hot days, you will have to drink a little more than expected,” says Conroy. The typical goal for fluid intake is 64 ounces, but “when the temperature is 100 degrees or higher, you may need to double it,” he says.

“Water is the backbone of staying hydrated, but water alone is not enough and can be dangerous,” says Dr. Nelson. (It can flush out your electrolytes and make you feel sluggish, Conroy says.) “If possible, you shouldn’t use more than two or three bottles of plain water without food or other electrolyte supplements,” Dr. Nielsen says.

It’s also a good idea to avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages because they can dehydrate you, Conroy said.

Conroy recommends watching for signs of heat stroke, including

Heavy sweating

Cold, pale and clammy skin

A fast and weak pulse

Nausea or vomiting

Muscle cramps

Tiredness or weakness

Dizziness

Headache

Fainting

If you experience these conditions, Conroy recommends staying out of direct sunlight, drinking water and putting ice packs on your body. “Take off soaked clothes and let your body cool down,” he says. And, if you start vomiting, your symptoms get worse, or last more than an hour, it’s time to seek medical attention.

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