As warm weather rolls in, we need to work to keep ourselves cool. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over 600 people in the US die from heat-related issues every year. And while not all hot weather is fatal, it sure is uncomfortable.
Tiny changes, such as wearing a different fabric or trying an alternative sunscreen, can help you feel ten times cooler. Even researchers have backed some of these heat-fighting techniques. Read on to learn how you can regulate your body temperature while in the scorching heat.
Water, Hot Or Cold, Is Your Best Friend
In 2007, a study in the Journal of Sports Sciences indicated that drinking water stabilizes the body’s core temperature. When people are hot, they get dehydrated quickly since they’re sweating more. Rehydrating replenishes this sweat, which in turn lowers body temperature.
The International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine asserts that drinking water replenishes sweating within three minutes. Although ice cold drinks will cool the body faster, the actual temperature doesn’t matter. Hot drinks can make you feel better because they encourage sweating, which cools you down. Aim for six to eight glasses of water a day.
Wear Breathable, Light Clothing
Obviously, most people don’t wear sweaters or scarves on a hot day. But picking heat-tolerant clothes goes further than a tank top and shorts. You’ll want to pinpoint breathable fabrics: cotton, linen, block, and rayon.
Light fabrics prevent sweat from sticking to your body. Sweat lowers body temperature when it evaporates, but it only vaporizes in an environment with little water. The less sweat under your clothes, the more refreshed you’ll feel. If you don’t know your clothing’s fabric, opt for baggy shirts or gym outfits. Most workout clothes are designed to ventilate moisture and keep you dry.
Want Some Spicy Food?
Have you ever wondered why spicy dishes tend to be popular in warmer climates? It’s because eating spicy foods helps people stay cool. Chili pepper contains an extract called capsaicin, which stimulates thermoreceptors. When the brain interprets this sensation as heat, the body sweats more, lowering body temperature.
Dr. Ollie Jay, head of the Thermal Ergonomics Laboratory at the University of Sydney, concluded through his research that hot food and drinks decrease the amount of heat stored in your body. In particular, sweat triggered by thermoreceptors can decrease body heat by 32-33°F (0.2-0.5°C).
Where Should You Place An Ice Bag?
When we’re miserably hot, many people reach for an ice pack or frozen bag of peas. Think before you decide where to place these bags. You’ll want to press them against pulse points, areas where blood vessels are close to the skin’s surface. These spots release the most heat from your body, so cooling them down will help you feel better overall.
Pulse points sit on your wrists, the insides of your elbows and knees, inner thighs, and inner ankles. Similarly, place an ice pack against the back of your neck, near your brainstem. This is the part of your brain that regulates body temperature.
Choose A Lightweight Sunscreen
It’s no secret that sunscreen protects your skin on a hot, sunny day. But dense sunscreens can suffocate your skin and not allow sweat to evaporate. When picking a sunscreen, choose one that is comedogenic, which means that it doesn’t clog pores. Dermatologists also recommend an SPF of at least 30.
Some serums, face oils, and foundations contain SPF. If these feel lightweight, you can use them in place of a sunscreen. Dr. Howard Sobel, founder of Sobel Skin, recommends ingredients such as “titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to absorb rays and reflect them off the skin, as well as octocrylene (a moisturizing chemical sunscreen) and octisalate (an organic sunscreen that absorbs UVB rays) to maintain longevity of the product on the user.”
Houseplants Make Great Roommates
Science has demonstrated that living around plants aids the human body more than most people think. Along with purifying the air of toxins, plants also release moisture into the air. Researchers from the Carnegie Institution for Science found that plants release water to cool down in the same way that humans do. In other words, house plants lower the temperature.
However, some plants cool the air better than others. Palms, snake plants, aloe vera, golden pothos, and ferns all assuage heat effectively. Psychologists have also observed that owning houseplants improves your mood through the feeling of being in nature.
The Perfect Tea For A Hot Day: Peppermint
If you’re debating over what to drink in hot weather, consider peppermint herbal tea. Mint leaves contain menthol, a cyclic terpene alcohol that induces a pleasant, cold sensation. It’s the same compound that makes your mouth feel fresh and icy after brushing your teeth.
Peppermint tea can be ingested or sprayed on your skin as a topical. Scientists for the Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research have used peppermint oil to alleviate skin irritation in pregnant women. If tea isn’t your…cup of tea, try chewing some mint-flavored gum instead.
Light Or Dark Clothes?
When it’s hot and sunny out, wear light-colored clothes, says Professor George Havenith of the University of Leicestershire. Pastel clothes reflect sunlight, while darker clothes absorb heat. Whites and delicate colors also match the season.
But what about the dark clothes that some people wear in the desert? Researchers have observed that these fabrics are incredibly thick. The outer layer heats up, and the lower layer remains cool. Thin, dark clothing will only make a person hotter. Opt for light-colored outfits to be safe.
Don’t Crack Open A Beer
Hot, sunny days encourage many people worldwide to hit up the beach or barbecue with an ice-cold beer. But despite the appeal, scientists admonish people not to consume alcohol in the scorching heat. Dr. Andrew Thornber, the chief medical officer at Now Patient, claims that alcohol dehydrates the body and raises your heart rate.
Dr. Thornber says that these symptoms “massively affect” the body’s core temperature and warm your body more. If you’re already hot, beer can make you feel nauseous and dizzy as well. On top of that, too much alcohol upsets hormones and spikes body temperature, leading to “hot flashes.”
You Finally Have An Excuse To Buy More Slushies
You know slushies: those icy drinks full of syrupy sweetness. Recent research has explored how slushies impact the body on a hot day. In 2010, a New Zealand exercise researcher found that his participants ran longer when they exercised after drinking a slushie. Another study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology disputed slushie’s effectiveness before a workout, but encouraged it after exercise.
Whenever you enjoy a slushie, know that it does cool down your body temperature. Why do they work? According to a 2017 study in the Journal of Sports and Health Science, consuming crushed ice keeps the body cooler for longer, as opposed to cold water.
Consume More Vitamin C
Although most people don’t think “vitamins” when they’re feeling hot, recent research states that specific vitamins help regulate body temperature. In 1977, a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology: Respiratory, Environmental, and Exercise Physiology found that taking 250 mg of vitamin C prevents the body from becoming too hot in warm climates.
More recently, researchers from the University of Alabama discovered that vitamin C heightens heat tolerance by delaying sweat gland fatigue. Over time, your body tires of producing sweat, so it secretes less water. Less sweating makes you feel hotter. Consider taking some vitamin C supplements when you’re in warm weather.
Enjoy An Icy Foot Bath
Can’t make it to the pool? Consider having a cold foot bath. Feet are an often overlooked pulse point, so placing them in icy water will relieve your whole body. Two arteries, the posterior tibial artery and the dorsalis pedis artery, run through feet. These veins are close to the skin around the inner ankle, so cooling them down will alleviate core body temperature.
Cold water also soothes skin irritations, including burns. If you prefer to take a cold shower instead, it’ll have a similar effect. However, foot baths eliminate the inevitable stickiness you feel when you step out of the shower.
Replace Your Night Cream
In general, nighttime face creams are designed to be heavier and soak into your skin overnight. In chilly weather, these lotions expertly rehydrate your skin. But in hot weather, they can dampen your pillowcase. You don’t need to abandon your nighttime skin routine, but you may want to consider replacing your lotion for a lighter option.
According to Sandra Kopp, MD, a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group, lightweight moisturizers tend to be in gel or serum form. Balms can also feel much lighter than cream. Choose a delicate moisturizer that soaks in quickly, and you’ll feel cooler.
Stay Away From Salty Meals
What you eat impacts your body temperature more than anything. Although barbecue sounds great on a scorching sunlit day, salty food can leave you feeling worse. In 2002, research in The Journal of Physiology said that while salt decreases core temperature, it also lowers heat tolerance. Sodium-rich foods cause sweating, salivating, and dehydration, which can make you feel worse if you’re already hot.
On a warm day, hydrating foods are your best bet. Fruits have a high water content, and some include vitamin C. Dairy products such as milk and yogurt can produce a cooling effect as well.
Limit Your Coffee Intake
Although hot drinks can cool your body down in warm weather, caffeinated drinks could have the opposite effect. In 2014, a study in the Journal of Biological Rhythms found that participants who drank coffee experienced a higher skin temperature soon after. According to a 1994 NASA review, caffeine increases core temperature but not sweating. In short, it heats you up with no relief.
If you have a hot drink, make sure it’s low on caffeine. Or, limit your coffee to one cup a day during the warmer months. Remember: black and green teas, sodas, chocolate, and some drugs also contain caffeine.
Are You Sleeping With Cool Sheets?
The worst part of a hot day is a hot night. If you can’t sleep due to damp sheets, double-check what your linens are made of. Are they a blend of polyester and cotton? These fabrics trap heat and sweat, making you feel sticky and unpleasant. Opt for cotton, bamboo, or linen bedding that lets enough air in.
If you can’t get new sheets, try sleeping with the “Egyptian method.” Wet a bed sheet by soaking it in water or running it through the wash. Once the sheet stops dripping, drape it over you in bed. If you have a breeze from a fan or window, you’ll cool down overnight.
Know Which Times To Go Outside
If you’re planning to go outside on a hot day, early afternoon is the worst time to leave. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, 3 p.m. signals the hottest point of the day. By then, the sun hangs low enough in the sky that outgoing heat overtakes incoming heat. In some environments, the hottest point of the day is even earlier.
Plan to stay out of the sun in between 12:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Close your windows and doors during those times, especially if the outside temperature is warmer than inside. This is also the best time to turn up your fans or AC.
It’s Time For Aloe Vera
Many people know that aloe vera treats burns. But you don’t need to wait until sunburns to reap the benefits of aloe vera. According to the Indian Journal of Dermatology, aloe acts as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant to the skin. Hence, when you rub on aloe gel, you’ll feel a cooling sensation.
The same journal states that aloe moisturizes the skin while lending some UV protection. In other words, it helps keep you hydrated and prevents sun damage. Although you shouldn’t use aloe in place of sunscreen, it can moderate your body temperature while you’re staying indoors.
Digestion Warms Your Body
Mark Mattar, MD, an assistant professor at Georgetown, says that the process of digestion warms people slightly. The body keeps its core temperature around 100°F (38°C); when that temperature is interrupted, the body works to warm it again. Of course, everyone needs to eat. But consuming certain foods can make you feel hotter than others.
Dr. Mattar recommends eating warmer food because cold food prompts the body to heat up again. Meals that take a long time to digest — like fatty meats and sweets — may increase your temperature as well. Eat small meals (or more snacks) to limit digestion time.
Undress And Get Wet
If you’re struggling with dry heat — weather that’s scorching, but not humid — you may benefit from this trick. When inside, take off your clothes and dampen your skin. You can use a wet washcloth or towel (preferably chilled in the fridge beforehand). Sit next to a fan or air conditioner, and enjoy the relief.
By dampening your skin, you’re essentially creating artificial sweat, which won’t dehydrate you. The water acts in the same way that sweat does, but faster with more airflow. Pro-athletes use this trick all the time during sporting events.