6 ways to survive the heat this summer

A thermometer showing the heat with glasses of lemonade.
Photo by Cherries/Shutterstock

Summer is in full swing, and along with the cottage trips, sunscreen, ice cream, and sandcastles, comes something a little less enjoyable: heat stroke. If you have air conditioning, and get to spend your weekends lakeside, you might not be too worried about it; however, heat stroke can happen at anytime and it’s no joke.

Heat stroke happens when your body is unable to maintain its normal temperature; something that can easily happen when the summer heat is at it’s strongest. You can end up with a fever, or even unconscious, and if it’s not treated immediately, heat stroke can actually lead to damage in your muscles, kidneys, heart, and even your brain.

When the summer heat increases and the sun is beating down, even a walk to your favourite café can be strenuous on your body, and wreak havoc on your internal temperature. Here are a few tips to help you survive the heat, stay cool, and have a healthy summer.

Eat right

Just like certain foods can heat you up, there are certain foods that can help your body cool down and maintain a normal temperature. Foods that are harder to digest, such as dairy and meat, will make your body work harder and heat up, but if you stick with easy to digest fruits and vegetables, you’ll find it’s much easier to keep cool. Also, eat smaller portions because even the act of digestion can increase your body temperature. And steer clear of caffeine, which can increase your heart rate and make you sweat!

If your body is prone to overheating, try reaching for a snack that will help you cool down. Water based foods are a good place to start; watermelons, sorbet, and cucumber are all great summer treats, and if you eat them right from the fridge they will hydrate your body, and help you feel refreshed. Try making a green salad with cucumber, celery, and tomatoes, or a fruit salad with watermelon, grapes, pineapple and peaches. Your body will thank you.

Stay hydrated

This one might seem obvious, but it’s so easy to forget to drink water when you’re enjoying dinner and wine on a patio, or sitting outside all afternoon at a barbecue. Remember that most other liquids are not as effective as a simple glass of water, so try keeping a reusable water bottle with you all the time to help regulate the amount of water you’re drinking.

When you’re hydrating, another important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t drink anything that is too cold. While it can seem tempting to throw ice cubes into literally everything when the thermometer is in the red, it’s actually a bad idea to drink anything really cold, no matter how refreshing it might feel in the moment. Your body has to work hard to warm the water up to body temperature as it moves through your system, which means your lovely glass of ice cold lemonade might actually be making you hotter. The same goes for really hot beverages, although some people believe a nice cup of warm chrysanthemum tea—known as a cooling herb—is a great way to cool down and clear your head.

Exercise in the shallow end

Heat stroke is caused by physical exertion in temperatures that are too high for the body to regulate, which means staying active in the summer can be tricky. However, if you want to beat the heat, and maintain your fitness level, there is an obvious answer: Swimming!

Swimming is a great way to exercise, and keeping your body immersed in the cool water means it’s that much harder to over heat. So many gyms and community pools have specific times set aside for anyone who wants to swim laps, and if laps are too boring, you can always try water aerobics classes—also something called aquatics, waterfit, or aquatic therapy—which are exercise classes held in the pool. Water aerobics is also a great option for anyone with an injury or long-term physical ailment, such as a bad back, because it’s gentler on your muscles and joints. And, best of all, it’s fun!

Stay out of the sun

This can be hard if you’re out for a walk, at the beach for the day, or spending time at a backyard party; however, there are little tricks to remember that will help you stay cool and avoid heat stroke. For example, when you go for a walk, cross to the shady side of the street, even if you’re only going a couple of blocks. Being out of direct sunlight makes a huge difference on the body’s temperature. If you’re at the beach, take an umbrella and sit under it whenever possible. The same can be said for backyard parties, patios, and balconies; a little umbrella shade goes a long way.

If you do have to be in the sun, there are also little tricks to keep in mind when you’re starting to feel the heat. Try carrying a spray bottle to mist over your face, or put an icepack or wet bandana on the back of your neck. Just like wearing a hat in the winter can help your body feel much warmer, keeping your face and neck cool in the summer will keep your body temperature at a normal level.

Home remedies

If you’re at home, there are so many ways to keep yourself cool. If you have air conditioning, you’re all set, but if not, there are still things you can try. First of all, make sure you are wearing light, airy fabrics so your skin can breathe, and try going barefoot. Next, you could lower your temperature by putting your feet in a bucket of ice water, or sitting in front of a fan—fans increase air circulation, which can help cool down any space. Even just holding your wrists under cold running water for several seconds can greatly reduce your internal temperature.

If you’ve got a basement, now is the time to use it. If not, keep the blinds and curtains closed to keep the house from heating up from solar rays, and turn off all the lights. Then get down as low as possible—lying down on the floor if possible—because heat rises. Enjoy a glass of cool—but not too cold—water and wait until your body has cooled down completely before getting back up.

Remember to relax

Stress makes the body work really hard, which in turn makes you sweat. Staying calm is one of the best ways to keep your body temperature at a healthy level. Everyone has a different method for relieving stress, but there are a few things that always seem to help; listening to music, meditation, and having fun.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and it’s effecting your body, try putting on some soothing music. If dancing helps relieve stress, put on something with a good beat, just keep in mind that physical exertion can make things worse if heat stroke is an issue. If you’re looking for something soothing, many people find yoga and meditation to be a great way to relieve stress. Meditation is something that can be done almost anywhere at anytime, so it can be a great way to help your body calm down and cool down.

Finally, schedule some time for fun. If it’s all work and no play, your body isn’t going to get a chance to cool down, putting you at a higher risk for heat stroke and other heat related issues. Spend some time by yourself, or with loved ones, and find some fun activities that you can all do together. Laughter is a great way to relieve stress.

Also on RNR: