Being fat has taught me two things; I can’t sink, which I learned in Virginia Beach and I cannot tolerate heat. Of course hot flashes don’t help matters but just the regular summer heat is overwhelming for me. Until this year I’d work in my garden and play with the dogs for an hour or so then retreat to the comfort of my 70° home. But this year our central air isn’t working. Neither is the furnace but, frankly, that doesn’t concern me. It’s spring and the forecast for the rest of the week is temperatures in the mid-80’s. I will not fare well in this.
Summer frequently brings power outages as people run air conditioners and fans trying to alleviate the heat. It’s logical. Heat can be deadly. In 1995 over 700 deaths in Chicago were directly attributed to a severe heatwave that hit the city. In California in 2006 655 people lost their lives during a two-week heat wave. The CDC states an average of 675 people die from heat-related illnesses each year in the United States. This makes heat one of the leading causes of weather-related deaths in America.
Hyperthermia and heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke and death. I once experienced heatstroke requiring an ambulance to be called and EMT’s to treat the condition. It was not an event I’d like to replicate.
If your power goes out or you have no air conditioning and the heat becomes too much to handle, here are some alternative ways to stay cool.
For millennia people have lived in nice, cool caves. Since I don’t live in an area where there are any caves I’m going to go back to the things my mama and Nana used. If the heat became too oppressive they’d retreat to the basement. The temperature in basements is usually significantly lower than the first floor.
If your basement isn’t furnished just take a chair and a book and hang out until you feel cooler and ready to face the world above again.
Mama would hang wet sheets at the doors and windows when it got oppressively hot. They breezes would evaporate the water and cool the house. Some folks even sleep with wet sheets. They dip the sheets in cold water and wring them out so they’re just damp. As the air evaporates all night the people stay cool.
When I was growing up and the summer days got too hot to handle all the ladies would draw the curtains. Keeping the sun out helped keep some of the heat out of the houses. They’d do this early in the morning while the houses were still relatively cool. As soon as it began to cool down in the evening, they’d throw open windows and doors to let in the cool evening air.
Another thing Mama always said to do when it got too hot was to head to the swimming hole. She meant get in the pool and it was wise advice. Swimming is a great way to cool off. And don’t dry yourself when you get out of the water. Let it evaporate on your skin, helping to keep you cool longer. Stretching out in the shade after swimming will let the water evaporate even more slowly. If you don’t have a swimming hole or pool try a kiddie pool. The plastic pools for toddlers can be very refreshing if you sit in one in the shade. Or try a cool shower.
I’ve been hosing off the dogs in the yard and letting them drip dry. For myself and my husband I’ve got misting bottles to help keep cool. While hosing off the dogs takes a bit of effort it’s no trouble at all to spray our face and arms with a cool mist from the bottles.
During the summer most of the moms would either serve some kind of cold dish or barbecue on hot days. Both cooking and eating hot foods can make you feel even hotter.
They’d also put off dinner until it had begun to cool off a bit. No one really feels much like eating when it’s hot.
I remember sleeping on sheets in the living room with the windows and door open in summer. The number of windows and the front door allowed a lot more cool night air to reach us. If at all possible, don’t sleep on a second floor or in a room with only one window.
Even better were the nights we slept outside! Sleeping outdoors gives you the maximum exposure to the cool night air. Try camping out in a tent. You’ll stay cooler and your kids will love it.
Our neighbor, Mrs. Hooks, used to wet a bandanna and wear it on her head as she took care of her flowers. Keeping your head cool will help you feel cool all over.
Although Mrs. Hooks used to garden even during the hottest part of the day most of the ladies kept to the old saying, “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.” They’d do outdoor work early in the morning or in the evening.
In the movie “Steel Magnolias” Shirley McClaine’s character Ouiser says, “Because I’m an old Southern woman and we’re supposed to wear funny looking hats and ugly clothes and grow vegetables in the dirt. Don’t ask me those questions. I don’t know why, I don’t make the rules!” I agree with her in that I believe all old women should wear funny looking hats and ugly clothes and grow vegetables in the dirt. You don’t have to wear a funny looking one but wearing a hat will help keep you cool.
And the clothes don’t have to be ugly but clothing in the heat should be thin and loose-fitting. The dog days are not the time to wear clothing that doesn’t breathe or is tight. You want air to circulate through it.
If you try or have used any of these or if you have additional ideas on staying cool I’d love to hear from you!