It’s H-O-T. Like, puddling when you step out the door, ass-crack sweat, ungodly smells coming from your constantly perspiring teen kind of hot. All across the U.S. (and other parts of the globe) right now, millions of people are feeling the effects of oppressive heat waves. It’s bad and, unfortunately, will only get worse — heat waves, in part, drive the climate crisis, which then causes the conditions that make heat waves more likely. It’s a vicious cycle. If you’re currently sprawled out under a fan, stuffing ice into your bra, and shaking your fist at the sun, know that you are not alone. While some people seem to adapt easily to this overbearing heat, the rest of us are altogether flummoxed by this fairly new phenomenon. So, how do you stay cool in a heat wave? That depends on your situation.
Not everyone has central air. In fact, a study conducted in 2015 estimated that 12.5% of Americans do not have air conditioning. Another 26% have window units. But even those cooling mechanisms can fall short in the midst of this global warming hot sh*t (literally). Don’t resign yourself to melting just yet, though. If you do live in a place where Mother Nature has kicked the thermostat up to an unreasonable degree, there are ways to beat the heat — from choosing the right curtains and paint colors to dressing and drinking for the temps.
Tips for Staying Cool(ish) in a Heat Wave
1. Cover Your Windows
Window coverings are great for giving yourself privacy or reducing the glare on the television, but they can also keep out the heat. Start with blinds. Then, investigate your curtains. Those sheers are very pretty, but they do little to block out the sun. Most room darkening curtains are thicker and will also help keep your home cooler. Since they’re more expensive than regular curtains, start with putting them on windows that get direct sunlight. If you have to, hang blankets. Just do whatever you need to block out the sun and heat.
2. Install Ceiling Fans
Do you have rooms with overhead lights but no ceiling fans? Time to change that up. Start with the rooms you spend the most time in. You might be thinking, Half the year, my state is freezing cold. I don’t need a fan. Well, think again, friend. There is a small button on the side of every ceiling fan. Flipping that switch changes the fan’s direction, circulating warm air upward and around the room, which makes it beneficial even in the winter.
3. Close Unused Vents
Do you spend all day downstairs? If you have central air, close the vents in the bedrooms during the day to ensure you’re not wasting precious air conditioning on empty rooms. If you open those vents an hour or two before bedtime, your room will have ample time to cool off before you crash for the night. Added bonus: Your AC won’t have to work so hard to cool your house, saving you money on your energy bill.
4. Give Your Oven a Break
Ever notice your kitchen feels about a million degrees warmer when you’re cooking? Sure, that’s partially because you’re moving around in a frenzy. But it’s also because of that gigantic box of fire in the corner, also known as the oven. During the summer, wait to use the oven until later in the evening or first thing in the morning — or don’t use it at all, if you can swing it.
5. Shed Some Clothes
You’re home. You’re either alone or with people who have already seen your body. If you’re not roaming your home in a tank top and underwear, what are you even doing?
6. Take a Cool Shower/Bath
Hot showers can be so, so relaxing and cathartic. However, they’re also raising your body temperature — the exact opposite of what you want to do. Take a cold shower to cool yourself down. If your home is particularly warm, you could even let your kids have a “pool day” in a cool bath.
7. Eat Cold Foods
Have you bought that giant bag of freezy pops yet? Are you stocked up on Jell-O and ice cream? How many boxes of Suddenly Salad are in your pantry? Cold food is a necessity in the summer. If it can go in the fridge before you eat it, put it there.
This one seems absurd. It’s obviously not something you can do tomorrow due to the aforementioned heat and, of course, that pesky budget. But when you do start thinking about home upgrades, make sure you’re thinking about paint colors. Are those dark blues and grays trendy right now? Yes. Dark colors absorb a lot of heat and sun, though. Choosing lighter, brighter colors for your home will reflect that light and keep your home cooler. You’ll see the effects on your electric bill, and no doubt feel the results the next time you’re living through a heat wave.
9. Give Yourself AC Breaks
Is your car gassed up? Every so often, head to the car and crank that AC for a few minutes.
10. Head Out
Your neighborhood might have lost power, but how far does the outage stretch? Not everyone can afford a hotel, right? Consider evacuating to the library, mall, or just Target during the hottest part of the day.
11. Protect Your Pets
Sure, your cat loves sunbeams, but animals are susceptible to heat illnesses, too. Place plenty of bowls of water around the house. Consider letting a faucet drip for them, too. Got a basement that is usually closed off? Open that door a crack — it’s much cooler down there. And, if at all possible, take them with you on your hunt for AC.
12. Find Shade
Sounds super obvious, but sometimes we all need a little nudge in the right (read: shady) direction.
13. Wear Light Layers
“Light” doesn’t just apply to the thickness of that tank top. It goes for the color of your clothing, too. Lighter colors will reflect light and keep you cooler.
14. Drink Plenty of Water
Freeze some water bottles before you head out and stick ’em in your cooler with your regular cold water bottles. Drink nonstop. (And bring those freezy pops, too!)
15. Bring a Fan (and Extra Batteries)
It’s amazing how good a breeze can feel… even when it’s just blowing hot air at you. Just don’t get caught without extra batteries.
16. Get Your Splash On
Creeks, splash pads, lakes, hoses — whatever you have to do and wherever you have to go, just get wet. The water will always be cooler than the air. Soak yourself and your clothes before you plop down in the shade.
17. Stock Up on Cooling Products
There are tons of portable cooling products out there that won’t break the bank but will help you beat the heat: cooling towels, neck fans, moisture-wicking clothes, UV gaiters… you get the picture. For a cheap at-home option, you can put rice or coffee beans in a large tube sock, tie the end, pop it in the freezer for a bit, then put it on your neck.
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