Summer is almost here, which means picnics, barbecues, and trips to the beach. It’s a time many spend outside, having fun in the sun. It’s also the hottest time of the year, which can put people at risk for dehydration, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke. Every year, thousands are rushed to the emergency room with one of these conditions. In some cases, these ailments may even be fatal. For this reason, it’s important to not only know the signs of heat-related illnesses, but also to know how to cool yourself down and be safe.
Luckily, there are a few methods to cool down that are effective and simple for you to do — at home or while you’re out and about at the 4th of July cookout or barbecue, beach, or pool!
1. Drink Cold Water
Hydration is a great way to stay healthy and avoid dehydration, but it can also help you cool down on those repressively hot days. When it’s hot out, you sweat. Perspiration is your body’s way of cooling your skin off with cool sweat. As you sweat, you lose water and sweat less. This deprives your body of its key cooling function, which can exacerbate the overheating issue.
Drinking fluids can also cool you down, but there’s currently a hotly debated topic on which temperature of fluids are best to drink. Some say cold liquids and ice chips are best because they lower your core body temperature. Others argue that cold drinks can shock the body into thinking it’s colder than it is, raising your body temperature even higher. These researchers suggest warm drinks that hydrate without the warming effect of cold water. While there’s no clear consensus on which is best, both sides agree that hydration is key to beating the heat.
2. Apply Cool Water to Neck and Pulse Points
Another way that you can use water to help cool you down on a hot day is by applying it to your pulse points. Pulse points are where blood vessels are close enough to the skin for one’s pulse to be felt. By sprinkling cold water or applying a cold compress to these locations, you should able to lower the temperature of your blood. The coolness you’re adding should lower the temperature of your blood as it passes through these pulse points, which should make you feel cooler as the blood is dispersed throughout your body.
Your wrists, temples, and the back of your neck are common pulse points, but applying cool water (e.g., via an ice pack or by wetting the pulse points) anywhere you can feel your pulse should help to cool you down. Just keep in mind that this method’s effect is slight, and it should not be the only thing you’re doing to cool off. You should still hydrate and try some of the other suggestions on this list.
3. Retreat Indoors
Hydration is important, but it can only carry you so far to beat the heat. At some point, it may become necessary to change locations in order to cool off. Perhaps the simplest way to cool down is to go inside, especially if you have air conditioning.
While you go hydrate and do things to cool down, removing yourself from an environment that’s too hot may be the best way to prevent overheating. Don’t have air conditioning? Running a fan or two may be enough to cool down. Even getting out of the hot sun and into the shade and shelter your home provides may make a difference, though we recommend also doing other things to keep cooling off.
One way you can cool off quickly in your house is to take a cold shower. Essentially, this takes the benefits of applying cool water on your pulse points and expands them to your entire body at once. Even a warm shower can help, acting like sweat by cooling off the body as it evaporates. Just make sure it’s only warm and not hot. If the water is too hot, it can have the opposite effect and make you hotter.
4. Go for a Swim
Additionally, one other great way to escape the heat on a summer day is to go for a swim. Whether you have access to a pool, the beach, or a local swimming hole, any are excellent places to cool down. Much like a cold shower and the pulse points tips, the water signals to your body to cool down.
As an added benefit, swimming is a great exercise. Just make sure to drink water if you choose to workout by swimming. Even though you may not be able to tell, you still sweat while you swim, so you need to replace the fluid you’ve sweat out to prevent dehydration. Another concern you should watch for is the possibility of infection from waterborne germs and even human waste. Just make sure that you’re swimming in clean and treated pools, covering any open cuts or wounds with waterproof bandages and showering with soap and water after getting out of the water!
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Summer can be a fun time, but there are always health risks to look out for. Chief among these is keeping yourself from overheating. Whether you’re at the beach, at a picnic, or at home, there are a myriad of ways to keep your core temperature down. So, whatever you’re doing this summer, don’t forget to keep cool while you’re having fun in the sun!