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What to Do During a Heat Wave

Thermostat during a heat wave

It’s a scorcher out there! 🔥 ☀️ We have witnessed unprecedented heat waves throughout the United States in 2021. Some regions that never reach such high temperatures are seeing 90 to 100 degree days.

This can be a major issue since a lot of households in these areas don’t have air conditioning. Many unsuspecting people are struggling to beat the heat as we continue to see record-breaking temperatures across the nation.

So what do you do to keep cool during a heat wave? What should those without air conditioning systems do when temperatures climb? Follow these tips to stay safe and cool during a heat wave. 

Be Wary of Symptoms Associated With Heat-Related Illness

Heat stroke vs heat exhaustion symptoms


Heat waves aren’t just uncomfortable – they can be dangerous. It’s important to be mindful of symptoms associated with heat exhaustion and heatstroke. The EPA estimates that extreme heat results in roughly 1,300 deaths every year. And with heat waves growing more intense as climate change escalates, this figure is subject to increase. With such a serious risk associated with extreme heat, it’s important to know what the symptoms of heat-related illness are so you can seek help as soon as possible. 

Signs of Heat Exhaustion 

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue 
  • Headaches 
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Heavy sweating
  • Cold, pale, and clammy skin
  • Muscle cramps 
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Loss of consciousness

Signs of Heat Stroke 

  • Body temperature of 104°F or higher
  • Hot, red skin 
  • Fast pulse 
  • Headache 
  • Dizziness 
  • Nausea 
  • Confusion 

Find a Place With Air Conditioning 

A bit obvious, but the number one way to stay safe and cool during a heat wave is to find an air-conditioned refuge. If you’re lucky, you might have friends or family you can stay with while the extreme weather passes. But if not, there are some public spaces you can kill some time in as well. Public libraries, shopping malls, and coffee shops are a few examples of places you can sit in during the hottest hours of the day.

Order a Simple Air Conditioning System 

Air conditioning systems are a hot commodity in the middle of extreme heat. But if you have the financial means to secure one, that will be your best bet at making it through the heat wave comfortably.

Window AC units, ductless mini-split systems, and portable AC units all offer a quick, easy-to-install solution if you’re in dire straits. Central air conditioning is a great investment in the long run but it is more complicated to install and likely won’t be an immediate solution. 

Find Ways to Make Do Without AC

If you can’t get your hands on an AC, there are other ways to keep cool. Fans will be your greatest ally. Keep them running to get your body temperature down. You can increase a fan’s effectiveness by placing a bowl of ice water in front of it. Placing cool towels around your neck or forehead can also draw heat away from your body.

While taking these steps, be sure to hold off on much physical activity or any chores that require machinery until after sunset.   

Find more tips on how to keep your home cool without air conditioning here! 

Stay Hydrated

We can’t stress this enough, drink plenty of water! Heat can be extremely dehydrating. It will be even harder to regulate your body temperature if you haven’t had enough water. Keep your hydration levels up even if you don’t feel thirsty. You should aim for at least 11.5 - 15.5 cups a day.

Furthermore, hot days can deplete your body's electrolytes. Low-sugar sports drinks or Pedialyte can help restore nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, and sodium to keep you healthy during the heat. 

Don’t Overexert Yourself 

Take a load off. The last thing you want to do is exert too much energy and succumb to heat exhaustion. If you absolutely must get a workout in, do so in an air-conditioned gym. If you have to work outside during the day, take frequent breaks and stay hydrated. Check-in with yourself throughout the day and be aware of symptoms associated with heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke symptoms are located below.

Wait to Go Outside

Sometimes outdoor activities are unavoidable. But even when you’re simply sitting outside during the hottest parts of the day you can suffer from heat exhaustion or heatstroke. If you absolutely must get something done outdoors, schedule it for either early in the morning or late in the afternoon – especially if it’s a strenuous activity. Even better, hold off until the temperature drops again. 

Keep Your Meals Light 

High-protein, fatty, heavy meals take a lot of energy to digest. When you scarf down a hearty meal, your body actually generates heat just to process it. With that in mind, it’s best to keep your meals light and well-balanced on hot days. Think fruits, veggies, and lean proteins. 

Hang Out in Your Basement 

As most of us know, hot air rises. If you’re lucky enough to have a basement, use this rule of physics to your advantage. The lower stories of your home will be cooler – sometimes significantly so – than the rest of your house. Spend as much time as you can in the cool refuge of your basement to beat the heat. 

Dress in Light, Breathable Clothing 

What you wear will also play a huge role in how comfortable you’ll be in the heat. Be sure to wear lightweight, loose clothing. This will help to better regulate your body temperature. Light colors also help to reflect the sun’s heat away from you. So skip the heavy black clothes for now and stick with breathable, light-colored clothes. 

Skip the Coffee and Beer 

We know, this can be a hard one. But both caffeine and alcohol are considered diuretics and can promote dehydration. Caffeine can irritate the bladder which leads to an increase in urination. Alcohol can block antidiuretic hormones that prevent water reabsorption in the body. Both of these categories of drinks also tend to be sugary. Sugar can also contribute to dehydration which is the last thing you need on a hot summer’s day.


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