Keeping Cool When Things Get Hot
Consider These Alternatives for Beating Summer Heat
By Lisa M. Petsche
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When temperatures start pushing those summer highs, you need to do something to stay comfortable. Sure, you can crank up the air conditioning. But there are other, less expensive and more environmentally-friendly ways for you and the person you are caring for to feel a bit better when things heat up.
- Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothes that allow air to circulate and perspiration to evaporate. Stick to natural fibers like cotton, or microfiber materials with an open weave.
- Wear a hat to shade your face from sun and remember the sunscreen.
- Avoid strenuous activity, including exercising, gardening and mowing.
- If possible, stay indoors during the hottest part of day.
- Try to schedule outdoor activities in the early morning or evening. Otherwise, rest often in the shade.
Around the House
- Close drapes on sunny days.
- Consider awnings, shutters or roll-up porch blinds to shade your house. Also consider growing vines.
- Run an electric fan to circulate air in the room you’re using. While it won’t alter the room temperature, it will evaporate sweat, which will increase your comfort. Place a fan in front of an open window at night to draw in the cool evening air.
- Install ceiling fans to circulate air in the rooms you use most. They can be reasonably priced, and use relatively little energy. (They increase heating efficiency in the winter, too.)
- Stay on the lowest floor of your home.
- Use a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the basement.
- Hang laundry outside to dry. If you use the dryer, do so during the coolest parts of the day. The same goes for the dishwasher, to minimize the impact of its heat. (Consider washing dishes by hand during heat waves.)
Cooling the Decor
Accessorize your home with light, bright colors. Room accents can take the form of cushion covers, tablecloths, place mats or a mantel scarf, for instance. For color inspiration, think summer flowers and tropical fruits. Don’t overlook white, which gives a crisp, fresh look. For patterns, try florals and gingham checks.
Choose ocean blues and greens for a psychological cooling effect.
- Marine themes are always popular at this time of year. Bring out that collection of seashells and display them in a shallow bowl.
- Summer is a good time to be whimsical — have some fun with summer decorating.
- Try cool showers or sponge baths.
- If you don’t have air conditioning (or it breaks down) and the heat becomes unbearable, visit a friend or relative who has air conditioning, or go to a cool public place such as a senior center, shopping mall or public library, during the hottest part of the day.
- Avoid extreme temperature changes. For example, don’t have a cold shower right after coming in from outside on a sweltering day.
- Cook meals outdoors on a grill or use the microwave in place of a regular stovetop or oven.
- Drink plenty of extra fluids even if you don’t feel thirsty. Sip water or stock up on fruit juice and iced tea. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
- Eat foods high in water content like fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Eat light, more frequent meals to avoid taxing your digestive system. Go easy on protein, and steer clear of foods that are spicy or heavy.
An air conditioning unit is a must-have for older adults - especially those with chronic illnesses - to prevent adverse health effects when heat and humidity become oppressive. The following are some ways to maximize its efficiency.
- If you have a room air conditioner, try to shade it from the sun so it doesn’t have to work as hard.
- If you have central air, keep your furnace and air conditioning system — which function together — properly maintained, to ensure maximum air-cooling and save energy. Follow the tips below.
- Regularly check and replace air filters.
- Keep the area around your furnace and air conditioning unit free of clutter, plant overgrowth and debris.
- Keep vents free of obstructions.
- Dust around equipment, and vacuum filters and vents regularly.
- Have your system regularly inspected by professionals.
- Adjust controls accordingly when your home will be empty for several hours or more.
- Turn off air conditioning and open windows when the outdoor temperature decreases at night, especially if there's a cool breeze.
Lisa M. Petsche is a medical social worker and a freelance writer specializing in health and elder care issues.