Ways to stay cool in the heat

Woman drinking water
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In the peak of summer on those baking hot afternoons, when the sweat begins to pour down your face and your clothes start to stick to your body, you probably want nothing more than to crawl back inside to the respite of your AC. If this sounds like you, you're probably wondering how to stay cool in the heat.

While plopping yourself down in front of a fan is one way to lower your body temperature during a heatwave, there are a few other ways to feel less uncomfortable in the summer. We spoke with experts to find out other – some little-known – tips on how to stay cool in the heat, from the best dehumidifiers to breathing techniques. 

And while you're here, check our guide on best water bottles - they will come in handy! 

Why is it important to keep cool in the heat?

A boiling hot day can be uncomfortable, but it can also potentially be dangerous. Hot days increase the risk of heatstroke, dehydration and sunburn, all of which can lead to long-term health problems. 

In the short term, overheating can make completing your day-to-day tasks difficult or even impossible. You may even find yourself experiencing headaches, faintness and fatigue if you can't keep cool.

According to a 2021 study in Environmental Research Letters, the ill effects of heat are exacerbated by Covid-19. And, according to the National Weather Service, weather fatalities are increasing. Not only is staying cool important for your comfort and functionality, it's also vital for your health.

Woman sitting under a tree reading a book

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Tips on how to stay cool in the heat

Looking for some creative ways to stay cool when the weather gets hot? Here are some CDC recommended tips and expert comments on getting your body temperature down and keeping it down.

Get ready in advance

Don't wait until summer comes to take care of your body. "Prevention is key," says Dr Laura Purdy, MD, MBA. "Especially if you live in an area that is notoriously hot, prepare yourself for the summer months by maintaining a high level of physical fitness prior to the summer months, which will allow your body to handle the heat when it does come."

Drink plenty of water

Staying well hydrated is vital for keeping the body healthy and relatively cool when it gets hot outside. "You definitely want to be drinking more water," says Purdy.

So, how much water are we talking? According to the CDC, you should drink before you feel thirsty. If you're working outside in the heat, try to drink at least one cup of water every 15-20 minutes. Keep an eye on the color of your urine – the paler it is, the better hydrated you are. Discover extra tips on how to drink more water as well how much water your body needs here at LiveScience.

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Stay inside during peak sun hours

If possible, avoid being outside between 11am and 3pm when the sun is strongest. 

Keep your curtains closed

If you're inside during the day and the sun hits your windows, try to keep your curtains closed to prevent the inside of your house from overheating.

Apply SPF

Keeping your skin well-protected can also help you to feel a little more cool and can also prevent heat exhaustion.

"Using SPF as high as possible is important," says Purdy. "Broad-spectrum UV coverage will cover all types of damaging rays, which can increase your risk of skin cancer and early aging signs."

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Keep your home cool at night

Even when the sun goes down, staying cool can help you in the days to come. "Sleep with your house at a cooler temperature than you normally would at night, which allows for the heat to dissipate from your body better so you will be more prepared for the days that are exceptionally hot," says Purdy.

Keep vigorous exercise to a minimum

While staying fit can help your body maintain a healthy basal temperature on hot days, over-exercising in the heat can be harmful. Avoid exercising outside. Or, if you do workout outside, personal trainer TJ Mentus says, "The most important thing is to prepare our bodies beforehand. This means focusing on hydration the day before and hours leading up to an outdoor workout when you know it will be very hot out. If you wait until you already feel hot and sweaty then it is too late."

Looking to bring your workout indoors? Check out the best treadmills and the best workout equipment for home

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Try this breathing exercise

If you feel that you're overheating, controlling your breath can help. Try the yoga breathing technique called shitali pranayama. "It has the power to cool down your body within a few minutes," says Meera Watts, the founder of Siddhi Yoga

"It starts with sitting in a comfortable position with the back straight and keeping the hands on the knees. Taking out the tongue and folding it on the sides like a U shape. You'll have to inhale through your tongue in this tube position and exhale with your nostrils. To feel the cooling sensation, repeat it 5-8 times which will take no more than a few minutes. 

Stick to lightweight materials

"Wearing lightweight clothes that can dissipate water is important, and changing clothes once they become soaked with sweat, because you lose your ability to evaporate at that point," says Purdy.

Extra tips

If you think you've experienced overheating, it's important to seek medical help. "Heat cramps, heat exertional illness and heat strokes are emergencies and can even result in death for severe heat strokes," says Purdy. Signs include muscle cramps, dizziness, lightheadedness, vision changes, abdominal pain and nausea. 

"If your temperature is above 103, I would recommend calling 911 and getting to your local emergency department as soon as possible," she says. "If your temperature is lower than that, get inside as soon as possible and apply ice packs to your groin, armpits, and the back of your neck, immersed in cold water, and cool your body temperature as rapidly as possible."

Staying cool and hydrated is important when it gets hot outside. Drink lots of water, wear appropriate clothing, keep your home cool and avoid the sun at peak times.

Meg Walters
Freelance Writer

Meg Walters is a freelance journalist and features writer. Raised in Canada and based in South East London, Meg covers culture, entertainment, lifestyle, and health. Her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, i-D, Refinery29, Stylist, GQ, Shondaland, Healthline, HelloGiggles and other publications. When she's not writing, Meg is probably daydreaming about traveling the world, re-watching an old rom-com with a glass of wine, or wasting time on Twitter, where you can follow her @wordsbymeg.