The 2018 North American Heat Wave is still going strong. Montreal is under extreme heat alert with an Humidex of 40. 2018 is already one of the top five warmest years since records started, and it’s not like the global warming is any closer to slow down. Last week Anker showed us how to keep our gadgets safe during summer heat, so now I would like to humbly offer some advice on how to keep your own body cool during extreme heat.
A little about my qualifications: I lived from 4 to 29 in a city called Cuiabá, in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. It’s a well-known hot city, so much so it’s been joked about in songs - one romantic pop song mentioned that “seeing you and not desiring you is like not feeling hot in Cuiabá”. It’s a low-elevation city at 165m, but surrounded by mountains that trap the warm winds coming from the Pacific Ocean in a windwhirl that doesn’t let the warm go away easy. I’ll mention the Wikipedia here: “It is famous throughout Brazil as one of the country’s hottest cities, where temperatures are often above 40 °C (104 °F).”
So, yeah, I know heat, and how to live in it. The unfathomable heat we felt these last weeks in North America are 90% of the year there. It’s not fun.
So, let’s get to the advice:
- Keep an eye on humidity levels, specially when temperature goes above 30 °C. Every weather app has a different way of showing the “feels like” temperature, so it might get confusing. The number on the thermometer is not the only player in this game. In fact, humidity levels play a large role. The higher the humidity level, the more discomfort we feel. And that’s when most people make mistakes that could get dangerous. Dozens of deaths in the last week were attributed to the heat wave, making it more likely for someone to die from heat in Montreal than from gun violence. Above 30 °C, it’s hot no matter what. But if humidity levels goes above 55%, you start feeling like your clothes are trying to bake you alive. If it goes above 60%, do whatever you can to go to an air-conditioned environment. ACs lower the humidity by the nature of their work, so along with the temperature, humidity is also better suited for human beings. That’s the reason heat alerts usually comes with advices for elderly people and parents with little babies to go to malls.
- If you can’t go to an AC environment, do whatever you can to keep the air circulating: open windows and doors, turn on every fan in sight. If you or someone close to you start feeling dizzy, go in front of the fan for a couple of minutes, until your skin temperature drops.
- Avoid exertion. Anyone who tried to hike or run during a heat wave can tell it’s not the greatest feeling, nor the greatest idea. Heat stroke is real, and dangerous. If you absolutely have to exercise - be it by the nature of your work or because you just can’t be away from those weights too long, take long breaks. Very long breaks. Or workout in an AC environment, if ever possible.
- Keep hydrated. Seems counterintuitive, given the humidity level is high and you are probably sweating a lot. But your body looses a lot of water in the heat regardless of the humidity outside. Yes, you can actually die from too much water. Luckily, our bodies come with a few features designed to maintain good water levels: sweating and peeing. You are already sweating, just remember to let the sweat flow. So, yeah, those antiperspirant deodorants are not actually very good for you. You can try to keep your BO at a minimum, but let the sweat flow. And, of course, pee as much as you feel like. So, drink a lot of water, and dispose of a lot of water. Forget about the X glasses of water a day. Drink as much as you feel like it, but remember to keep drinking throughout the day, at least a sip every now and then. Just don’t hold it inside. As a plus, this will keep your kidneys occupied and decrease the chances you develop stones. One thing, though: alcohol doesn’t help. In fact, it’s really bad, and beer in particular, since it has a strong diuretic effect - you pee more without really being well hydrated.
- Be aware of the sun. If you would like a tan, and you have the time to go get a natural one, do it. But do it right. Staying half-naked under the noon sun is not the right way. The best times to get your tan are before 10am and after 3pm. And use sunscreen. Seriously. If you consistently tan when the sun is lower and wearing sunscreen, it might take more time for your tan to appear, but it will be there for much longer, and it will be way healthier.
- Speaking of sunscreen, you should wear it all the time, winter and summer alike. Yes, you too. It’s the best way to keep your skin healthy. It’s actually the main ingredient - and the only one you actually need - in all those “replenishing” and “de-aging” creams. But not all sunscreens are created equally. Try to stay away from spray ones. Creams are preferable, zinc-based above all. Those are actually physical UV-blockers, and that’s what you want.
- Try to have fun, if you can. Beaches, rivers, waterfalls, pools and water-parks are great, and even greater during summer. Take the precautions mentioned above, and go for it! There’s nothing better than being wet to beat the heat.