Weather

KEEPING YOUR COOL

Want to beat the heat this summer? Here’s what really works.

ROB ANNANDALE July 25 2005
Weather

KEEPING YOUR COOL

Want to beat the heat this summer? Here’s what really works.

ROB ANNANDALE July 25 2005

KEEPING YOUR COOL

Weather

Want to beat the heat this summer? Here’s what really works.

ROB ANNANDALE

IT’S THAT TIME of year again: barbecues, beaches, and buildings shrouded in smog. Summer’s here with a vengeance, as last month’s heat broke records in Ontario and Quebec. “It takes a lot to impress me,” says Environment Canada senior climatologist David Phillips, “but this June was a real head-shaker.” July hasn’t been much better, although much of the West has been cleaning up from flooding caused by heavy rains. According to Phillips, Environment Canada’s outlook for the rest of the summer calls for weather that’s “warm, warm, warm, from Vancouver Island to Bonavista.”

All that heat can place serious demands on energy supplies as people crank up their air conditioners to keep cool. Of course, not everyone has that luxury, and even those who do still have to step outdoors every once in a while. So what can you do to survive the dog days of 2005 and fend off heat exhaustion?

■ DRINK LOTS. Water and natural fruit juices are best. Alcoholic, caffeinated and very sugary drinks are bad. They may seem refreshing but they’ll dehydrate you in the long run. Also, cool drinks are preferable to cold ones.

■ BUT—DON’T DRINK TOO MUCH. Ifyou feel heat exhaustion coming on, it’s better to sip than chug, according to John Saunders, manager of disaster services for the Ontario zone of the Canadian Red Cross. And a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine warns that drinking too much water can be as dangerous as drinking too little, especially for athletes. Hyponatremia—when the body’s sodium levels become

abnormally low—results from overhydration and, in rare cases, can be fatal. One professional football team’s offbeat solution: drinking pickle juice.

■ FANS ARE A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD. They should only be used with the windows open to blow cooler air in or warmer air

IF WINDOWS

are closed, fans can actually heat the air up and accelerate the onset of heat exhaustion

out. If the windows are closed, fans can actually heat the air up and accelerate the onset of heat exhaustion.

■ LIGHT COLOURS ARE GOOD. This rule applies to both clothes and houses. Dark colours absorb the heat, whereas light ones reflect it. But you may have to be hot to be cool. An American magazine reports that

the colours of house exteriors “are trending darker, deeper and richer.”And a recent list of the trendiest colours in fashion reveals that Moroccan blue, ruby wine and gloxinia (that’s a purple, in case you’re wondering) are among the current faves in New York City.

Of course, it’s not impossible to combine wearing dark colours with staying cool. Just ask the Bedouins: because the air under their black robes gets so hot, it quickly escapes out the top of the garment and is replaced by fresher air at the bottom, keeping the individual cool. Unfortunately, today’s fashions are a little too form-fitting to allow for that kind of air circulation. The eternal struggle between looking good and feeling good continues.

■ TREAT YOURSELF TO A GOOD SOAK.

According to Marco Vittiglio, coordinating manager of the emergency services unit at Toronto Public Health, not enough people realize how quickly they can lower their body temperature simply by soaking their feet halfway up to the knees and their arms halfway up to the elbows in cool water.

But, as Phillips points out, there’s no single “magic rule” for beating the heat. Keeping cool, just like predicting the weather, is not an exact science. In the end, the best advice he can offer is for people to use common sense and find what works best for them. PÎ1