17 Simple Ways to Beat the Summer Heat
Baby, it's hot outside―and inside, too. We tapped experts for their best hacks for beating the heat, many of which you can do right now to stay cooler and more comfortable. From eating spicy food (yes, really) to swapping out your bedding, here are the easiest no-sweat ways to cool off this summer.
Create a DIY Air Conditioner
If it's hot but not humid, place a shallow bowl of ice in front of a fan and enjoy the breeze. As the ice melts, then evaporates, it will cool you off.
Spray Yourself With Cold Water
Spritz yourself. Keep a spray bottle in the refrigerator, and when the going gets hot, give yourself a good squirt. "It's all about thermal regulation," says John Lehnhardt, an elephant expert at Disney's Animal Kingdom, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. "As the water evaporates, it cools you." While elephants wet their ears first by blasting water from their trunks, humans should begin with their wrists to quickly cool down the blood flowing through their veins.
Turn Your Computer Off
Set it to go into low-power "sleep" mode if you are away from it for more than 10 minutes and it will give off less heat. When you're finished for the day, shut the machine down completely. Despite what some IT guy may have told you years ago, properly shutting down and restarting modern-day computers won't put undue strain on the hardware. And forget about working with a computer on your lap―it's too darn hot. "That's why they changed the name from laptop to notebook," says Justin M. Solomon, a 19-year-old undergraduate at Stanford University who took first place in computer science at the 2005 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
Air Dry Your Dishes
Skip the drying cycle on the dishwasher. Instead, leave the door open to let the dishes dry. And put off using the dishwasher until evening, when the air is cooler. Or simply wash your dishes the old-fashioned way: by hand.
Dress in Loose Clothing
Wear one of the widely available synthetic fabrics designed to wick away sweat and that sticky feeling like Coolmax. If you prefer cotton, make it thin, light colored, and, most of all, loose. "The best thing is to have sweat evaporate directly from skin to air," says Larry Kenney, a professor of physiology and kinesiology at Pennsylvania State University, in University Park. "The next best thing is for the sweat to move quickly from your skin to clothing and then evaporate. Loose, billowy clothes allow air movement next to the skin and help with evaporation."
Shuck your shoes. As the sweat on your feet evaporates, it cools the skin and the blood in your feet. Blood vessels then whisk that blood to other parts of the body, so "you're getting a greater sensation of coolness," says Donald R. Bohay, MD, a member of the American Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Society.
Eat Something Spicy
As people who live in scorching climates, such as those of Mexico and India, know well, eating hot stuff can cool you down. "Chili peppers contain capsaicin, a chemical compound that helps us to perspire more readily," says Rick Bayless, the James Beard Award-winning chef of Frontera Grill, in Chicago. When this sweat evaporates, you experience brief relief.
To replace the moisture that you lose as you perspire, be sure to drink. As you lose water to dehydration, your body temperature rises, so replacing fluids is essential to keeping cool.
Avoid beverages that contain alcohol, caffeine, or lots of sugar, which are dehydrating. "Also opt for hydrating foods," says Deena Kastor, a marathon runner and an Olympic bronze medalist. "Try a smoothie for lunch, and add more fruits and vegetables to all your meals. Watermelon has the greatest water content of any food out there."
RELATED: 7 Hydrating Foods
Opt for Fruits and Veggies
There's a reason we reach for salads in the summer. They're easier to digest than, say, a fatty hamburger, which leaves you feeling sluggish in the high heat. Instead, go for fruits and vegetables, which are watery and help keep you hydrated (and cooler), says Robert Kenefick, a physiologist at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, in Natick, Massachusetts, which studies the effects of extreme climates on soldiers' bodies.
Don't Turn on the Oven
Give your oven a summer vacation. If you cook, use the stovetop, the microwave, or a barbecue. "Grill some extra vegetables when you're making dinner," says Deborah Madison, author of Vegetable Soups From Deborah Madison's Kitchen. "The next day, mix them with a little Feta cheese and olive oil for a great, cool snack."
Hang Your Clothes to Dry
Give the clothes dryer a break, too. Hang a clothesline and let your towels and sheets flap in the breeze. "They smell wonderful," says Paul Hooker, whose company, Sferra, sells sheets made in Italy, where, he adds, almost everyone hangs them out to dry.
Make a Cold Compress
Fill a cotton sock with rice, tie the sock with twine, and freeze it for two hours before bedtime. Then slide it between the sheets. Rice retains cold for a long period because it's dense and starchy, says Jim Hill, Ph.D., an associate dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the University of California at Davis.
Escape. Relax with A Winter's Tale, The Call of the Wild, Doctor Zhivago, or Smilla's Sense of Snow. "Reading about cold can take your mind off the thermometer, evoking one's own experience of ice and snow," says Walter A. Brown, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the medical schools of Brown and Tufts Universities and an expert in the placebo effect. "It's also a bit of self-hypnosis. Sometimes when I shower and the water is cold, I tell myself it's hot and I can make myself believe it." You can save that last insight for another season entirely.
Upgrade Your Bedroom
Turn on a Window Fan at Night
If the day's heat is trapped inside your home, try a little ventilation at night or when the temperature drops below 77. A window fan can help; the trick is to face the blades outside to suck warm air out of the house and pull cooler air in. "Kind of surprising," says Bill Nye, the Science Guy, a scientist, engineer, comedian, author, and inventor. "Having a fan blowing in is a good idea―but it's not as effective as one that's blowing out."
Keep Moist Air Out of Your House
When taking a shower, be sure to use the vent fan in your bathroom: It helps sticky moisture escape.
Create Your Own Cool Breeze
Try a desert trick—when the air outside is dry and cooler than the air inside, hang a damp sheet in an open window. "That's what we do here in Death Valley," says Dale Housley, a ranger at Death Valley National Park. Incoming breezes are cooled by the evaporating water.