Photo: Dalton Heating and Cooling

As global temperatures continue to rise, we are experiencing soaring heatwaves and record-breaking temperatures across the globe. Following June’s mild temperatures in the Bay Area, July turned up the heat, and hotter temps will likely continue through the next few months.  High temperatures take a toll on our health and energy levels. In this article, we will explore the impact of heat on our well-being and provide useful tips to stay cool and mitigate the effects of extreme heat.

Heat and Health Impacts

When exposed to high temperatures, our bodies undergo various physiological changes that can leave us mentally and physically drained. The blazing sun and soaring temperatures affect our skin, heart, and muscles, leading to decreased energy levels. Factors like temperature, humidity, and radiant heat from the sun's electromagnetic waves impact our body temperature, triggering processes such as sweating, widening of blood vessels, increased heart rate, reduced blood flow to muscles, and brain fatigue. Prolonged exposure to extreme heat can result in symptoms like headaches, dizziness, cramps, nausea, respiratory problems, and heat stroke. Dehydration, often caused by excessive heat, can also lead to seizures if the body lacks the right balance of electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and calcium).

Simple Remedies for Reducing High Body Temperatures

To combat the symptoms caused by high body temperatures, there are several quick and effective cooling measures you can take:

  • Stay hydrated by sipping ice water or enjoying a refreshing popsicle. Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
  • Place a cold-water towel on your forehead or neck to help cool down.
  • Splash cool water on your face for instant relief.
  • Soak your feet in a bucket of cool water or ice for a refreshing cooldown.
  • Use a personal fan mister (battery operated) to create a cool breeze.
  • Opt for light meals such as salads and no-cook foods to avoid generating excess body heat.
  • Engage in physical work or exercise in the cooler morning hours.
  • During the hottest part of the day, try to stay in air-conditioned spaces, at home with your A/C set between 75-80, or at your local library, shopping mall, or community center. Find a cooling center.
  • Consider taking a rest or siesta in the afternoon when temperatures are the hottest.

Cool Ways to Beat the Heat at Home

To keep your home cool and comfortable during hot weather, consider implementing these tips:

  • Close windows, shades, blinds, or drapes to block the heat-generating sunlight from entering your home during the day. Open them up at night to let in the cool breezes. Blinds and curtains that are white on the side facing the window are most effective. Multi-cell window shades are always white on the side facing the window.
  • Add window shades, such as awnings, to windows (especially those that are south and west facing) to reduce the amount of heat penetrating indoors. Retractable awnings are a plus, as they offer more shade than fixed awnings, but can be retracted in winter to let the sun in when it's desired.
  • Turn off lights when not in use, and run appliances early in the morning to avoid generating additional heat during the hottest hours of the day.
  • Utilize microwave ovens, toaster ovens, and pressure cookers for quick warming without heating up the cooktop or oven.
  • Opt for air-drying clothes by hanging them in the shower or outside.
  • Keep air circulating in your home by using fans (even better with a mister!), allowing you to raise the thermostat a few degrees while remaining comfortable and reducing air conditioning costs. Many central heating systems include a "whole house" fan setting, where the fan can be used without using heating or cooling. When it's warm outside, try the whole house fan before turning on the AC system. You may find that the fan alone provides enough comfort.
  • Heating & cooling system air filters should be changed at least once a year - more often if you use your system often - in order to improve energy efficiency (and air cleaning).
  • Use LED lights, as they use the least wattage per quantity of light produced - thus creating less heat (and lowering your energy bill).
  • Ensure that the outdoor unit of your air conditioner, known as the condenser, has enough space to circulate air freely. Trimming bushes that are growing close to the unit can help.
  •  In addition to preventing unwanted solar heat gain (as mentioned above), you can lower the amount of AC needed by: a) Adding house insulation to under-insulated areas (especially at roof/ceiling areas), b) Replacing plain glass windows with Low-E glass windows, c) Checking for leaks in your air duct systems, and d) Plugging other leaks - especially around windows and outside doors. For more information, see the References & Resources section below.
  • Consider upgrading your air conditioning unit to a more energy-efficient model or installing a smart thermostat for better control over cooling. If you are considering upgrading your AC system, and you have a gas furnace, consider replacing the AC system with a heat pump - which provides both cooling and heating. Stopping the use of fossil fuels - such as gas for furnaces - can considerably reduce the amount of planet-warming greenhouse gases your home is responsible for.

As temperatures continue to rise globally, it's crucial to prioritize our well-being and take necessary precautions to beat the heat. By staying hydrated, using simple cooling remedies, and implementing energy-efficient measures at home, we can keep ourselves cool, comfortable, and healthy during hot weather. Remember, it's essential to take care of ourselves and our environment to adapt to the changing climate.

References & Resources:

  1. Visual Capitalist - Charting the Global Temperature Records: Link
  2. The Wall Street Journal - Why You Get Tired When It's Hot Outside: Link
  3. The Wall Street Journal  – Extreme Heat Sends People to Hospitals: Link
  4. Los Angeles Times - As California Bakes, Newsom Launches $20-million Campaign to Warn of the Dangers of Extreme Heat: Link
  5. California Heat Ready Resources: Link
  6. CDC Extreme Heat Infographic: Link
  7. PG&E Simple Ways to Save this Summer: Link
  8. Tips for tightening up air seals, ducting, and insulation: Link
  9. BayREN: Link
  10. PG&E Home Energy Checkup: Link 
  11. Treehugger - The Best Fans to Keep You Cool: Link
  12. Treehugger - The Best Air Conditioners for Your Home: Link
  13. Cleaner Contra Costa Challenge:  Link
  14. USA Today - How to Stay Cool During Hot Summer: Link
  15. Yahoo Finance - Heat Wave Hack Cool Body: Link


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