The past few days have been brutally hot across the Northern Hemisphere. Massive forest fires, spurred by an unprecedented heat wave, have been devastating Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Oceania (Australia, New Zealand, and Indonesia). Temperatures in London have exceeded 104°F (40°C), and the Middle East has recorded temperatures upwards of 123°F (50.7°C). That is capital-H Hot.
Extreme temperatures are becoming the norm, but it doesn’t stop us humans from breaking our bad habits. We still drive carbon-emitting vehicles while heating our homes with coal, natural gas, heating oil, and firewood during the bitterly cold months.
The heat takes its toll on us physically, mentally, and emotionally. Physical symptoms include heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Many of us have experienced heat cramps, the least serious heat-related illness, in the form of a painful cramp of a leg or arm muscle. Some of us have even experienced the headache, fatigue, and dizziness of heat exhaustion. The most dangerous heat-related condition is heatstroke when your body can no longer cool itself.
Our sleep cycles are also affected by the heat, which affects our mental and emotional well-being. When the evening temperatures stay hot enough to keep our bodies from cooling sufficiently to get a good night’s sleep, our brains are thrown out of whack. Sleep is essential to our physical, mental, and emotional selves.
I’m lucky that I live in an area where sweat works (mostly). The humidity stays in the teens (unless the clouds roll in, then I have a hard time staying cool enough). It doesn’t mean I can’t get heatstroke, though. The trick is to not just stay well-hydrated. I also need to keep my electrolytes in balance because I lose salt and water as I sweat. When I feel the heat cramps start, I drink a bottle of my favorite sports drink.
So, how to stay cool in the heat (especially if you don’t have air conditioning)? First, drink lots of water and keep a sports drink handy. Use a spray bottle to mist yourself with cool water. Take a tepid or lukewarm shower or bath to help decrease your body temperature. Stay out of the sun if you’re able. Finally, recognize the signs of heat-related illness. It could save your life or that of someone you love.