It’s hot, really really hot, and the temperature is just going to keep rising as we head into summer. Even though we are known as the Sunshine State, sometimes the heat is too much for even us to bear. Here’s your survival guide to staying cool.
So what should you do when the thermometer heads into the red zone? We’ve compiled a list of the best and safest things you can do to make your summer as heat-proof as possible.
1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. This is the most important thing to remember and can literally save your life. Drink ice water, cold juices or non-caffeinated ice-tea. Avoid caffeine, dairy-based beverages or anything that is full of sugar, preservatives or colouring. Keep water on you at all times, this is especially important as we live in a city that is both hot and humid so it’s easier for us to dehydrate without adequate liquid replacement.
2. Stay ahead of your thirst. This might seem obvious but you need to stay ahead of your thirst. Related to the above hydration tip, don’t wait until you are thirsty to take a sip, force yourself to drink and drink and drink. Often the body won’t signal you’re thirsty until you are actually dehydrated and during a heatwave and extreme heat conditions, this can be dangerous.
3. Slow down. When you are in the heat or not in an air conditioned space, acknowledge this and do everything at a much slower pace. Tone it down and try to reschedule any non-essential activities. Even look at doing certain activities earlier or later so when it’s at peak temperatures, you can just relax. People who are active during the day or work outdoors should limit the amount time they spend outside during peak heat hours (from 11am to 2pm). Move these activities to either early morning or evening and if you want to work out or do exercise, head to the gym or an air conditioned yoga class instead of heading outdoors.
4. No alcohol or coffee. As a nation of coffee and beer-lovers this one will be challenging, but try to avoid caffeine and alcohol of any kind. A cold beer or iced latte might be refreshing but it will suck the moisture out of your insides rapidly and make it harder for you to replenish your essential liquids.
5. Choose your attire carefully. It’s best to wear loose-fitting and lightweight clothing. If you’re able to be indoors at home, just wear shorts, baggy tees or singlets. You can even give underwear a miss, as every layer traps more heat against the body. If you are outside or not able to work or play in air conditioning, wear loose and light clothing (shirts, pants, skirts) and avoid synthetics if possible. Natural fibres, such as cotton, breathe better on the body. And oddly enough, keeping the sun off your skin provides more surface area for sweating, and so is actually cooler. If you’re outdoors, make sure you wear a cap or straw hat.
6. Change your schedule to match the season and the extreme conditions. Get up and out of bed at 5 a.m. and go for a walk or exercise while it’s still bearable. Try to get your work done early so you can go slow the rest of the day. It might be worth negotiating with your employer to start earlier or work later so you can avoid having to do the bulk of your work in the middle of the day where it’s more taxing on the body and brain.
7. Minimise the use of heat producing appliances. If you have to use the dishwasher, washing machine or dryer, use them at night or early in the morning. It’s all about eliminating extra sources of heat. Incandescent light bulbs can generate unnecessary heat, as can computers or appliances that are left running. Eat fresh foods that do not require you to use the oven or stove to prepare.
8. Remember to package and store any perishables appropriately. If you are taking any food to work or travelling any distance in a hot car, pack your food in cooler bags with ice bricks. It is surprising how quickly food can turn bad and spoil in a heat wave.
9. Try to eat high water content foods to help your body out. Many fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon, rockmelon, honeydew, grapes, coconuts, cucumber and tomatoes contain 90 percent or higher water content by weight. Eating them in abundance will keep you hydrated.
10. Utilise the cooling power of water in ingenious ways. So if you feel like your body is starting to overheat, cool down by taking a long, cool shower or bath. Soak your feet in a bucket or pan of ice water and use towels and bandannas soaked in cold water. Also applying an ice pack to various parts of your body will cool you down quickly.
11. Use a water-filled spray bottle. This one is fun for young and old. Use a water-filled spray bottle, especially if you have filled it with ice cold water. When you are outside or feeling hot, simply mist yourself with refreshing spritzes of chilled water (remember to wear waterproof mascara if you do this at work).
12. Avoid protein-rich meals. Don’t make your body work harder than it needs to by choosing small, easily digestible meals. So don’t indulge in large, protein-rich meals as these can increase metabolic heat and warm the body.
13. Create your own rice-sock ice pack. Simply take an old sock, stuff it full of rice and put it into the freezer for a few hours. Stay cool at night by placing it under the covers with you. Rice retains the cold for long periods of time. Or for an even colder version, fill a plastic sandwich bag with ice cubes, seal it and stuff that in an old sock too. Won’t last as long and there is a chance it make leak, but it will be colder version than the rice.
14. Look out for others. Keep an eye on everyone you come into contact with and learnt to recognise the symptoms of heat-related illness. Be on the lookout for heat cramps, heat rash, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Call 000 if you or someone you know seems to be in danger.
15. Use standing pedestal fans and ceiling fans. These promote air circulation throughout your home. Opening doors in the house and using fans to push the 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. However, in the morning 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.
16. Head downstairs and get low to the ground. Since hot air rises, the upper stories of a home will be warmer than the ground floor. Even better if your lower level is tiled rather than wooden as tiles retain the cold longer than wood.
17. Check in on the retired and elderly people near you. Aged people have less tolerance to heat due to their age. They can also be taking medications that can dehydrate the body, meaning that some elderly patients may be even more vulnerable to the effects of hot temperatures. So stop by, make sure they are drinking enough water, and that they turn on their air conditioning or fans.
18. Go Shopping! Shopping centres and cinemas always have the most reliable air conditioning systems and there are lots of things you can do while you’re there. Just make sure you don’t try to leave the shopping centre after your car has been sitting in the sun for hours. Try to leave at a cooler part of the day and let your car’s air conditioning run for a few minutes before you try to get in. Heatstroke only takes a few minutes to occur and the temperature in hot cars can reach unbelievable levels.
19. Avoid extreme temperature changes. This one may surprise you but a cold shower immediately after coming in from very hot outdoor temperatures can actually result in hypothermia (particularly for elderly and very young children).
20. Have a heatwave survival kit. Make sure it is prepped and packed before the summer temperatures really rise. Prepare your kit with all the following items and keep it in an easily accessible location. Battery-operated radio (with spare batteries), torch (with spare batteries), first aid kit and medications you need, a change of clothes, toiletry and sanitary supplies, special needs for infants, the aged and people with disabilities, water in sealed containers – ten litres per person (for three days), pet food, water and other animal needs, house repair items such as timber strips, hammers and nails for temporary repairs, mobile phone and charger, strong plastic bags (for clothing, valuables, documents, and photos) and spare car and house keys.
How to keep your pets cool
Finally, remember that pets also suffer when the temperature rises. Cool down your animals by giving them a cold bath or shower and you will help to 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 help your pet to beat the heat. Make sure they have plenty of cool water to drink as well.
Signs of a heat stroke in a pet are: Rapid panting, wide eyes, lots of drooling, hot skin, twitching muscles, vomiting and a dazed look.
So with temperatures continuing to rise, the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) has provided practical tips to keep your pets cool this summer.
Ten top tips for dogs and cats to beat the heat:
1. Make sure there is cool, fresh water available at all times. Leave this in a shady area.
2. On really hot days it might be worth leaving multiple bowls of cool water in the shade that can’t be tipped over.
3. Keep an eye on older pets as they will be more susceptible to the heat, particularly if they have problems with their breathing.
4. Dogs love to sit in the sun, but prolonged sun exposure can quickly lead to heat exhaustion and can cause skin cancers so it’s important to provide them with a shaded area.
5. One way to provide them with relief from the heat is to fill the kids’ paddling pool with a couple of inches of water and leave this in a shady spot for your dog to sit in.
6. Tossing a few ice cubes in your dog or cat’s water bowl can help to keep their temperature down and provide some relief on a hot day.
7. If you don’t have air conditioning, think about leaving a fan on during those really hot days in the height of summer.
8. Try to exercise your dog in the early morning or the late evening to avoid the hottest part of the day.
9. Consider putting some treats in the freezer. They can be given to your pet as a pet popsicle on really hot days. They’ll help cool your pet down and give them something to do when you’re out.
10. If you own a long haired dog, consider giving them a trim to help them cope better with the hotter months.
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