How to stay cool in a heat wave

Chicago, it's hot outside. Asphalt-melting, temper-flaring, sweat-dripping, heat-stroking hot.

And let's not even start on what this mix of heat and humidity does to our hair.

There's plenty of advice on how to stay cool and hydrated during this heat wave, but as a former Floridian, I have experience in surviving day after day after week after month of this wretched weather. No matter how acclimated you are to the heat, this intense heat will, literally, kill you. Here are my best tips for making it through the rest of this heat wave:

AIR CONDITIONING IS YOUR FRIEND. STAY INSIDE.
Want to know the reason for the economic revival of the Modern South? Air-conditioning. When it's this hot outside, southerners go from one air-conditioned place to the next.

If you don't have air-conditioning, go to the mall, the movies or your local community center. If you need help getting someplace cool, call the local non-emergency number for your community.

IF YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST DO SOMETHING OUTSIDE, DO IT IN THE EARLY MORNING HOURS.
I can't tell you the number of mornings I got up early because I had to weed the garden or run a long list of errands. The Spanish have something going with their siesta. Take a page from their book and avoid strenuous activity (and in this weather, that means almost everything outside) in the middle of the day.

HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE. AND HAVE A LITTLE SOMETHING ELSE TO DRINK.
Sure, we've all heard this advice- but did you know not following it can land you in the hospital before the day is over? And yes, water is best, but if you've spent a lot of time outside (see #1) then you should drink something to replenish your electrolytes. In this heat, it really, really matters.

KEEP THE SHADES DRAWN AND THE BLINDS CLOSED.

Sunlight heats up the house, and keeping it out will help keep your house and office cool and your electric bills down.


STRIP DOWN TO THE ESSENTIALS.

Toss the hose, the slip, the jacket, the tie, and anything tight or constricted. Skirts are cooler than pants, and cotton breathes. Not only do you need to stay cool, you need to be able to cool down fast when you overheat.

TAKE A TEPID SHOWER.
Just like a baby with a fever, the fastest way to cool yourself down is to immerse yourself in water.

KEEP DAMP WASHCLOTHES IN THE FREEZER TO COOL DOWN FAST.
If you feel yourself overheating and can't jump in the shower, take a cool washcloth and place it at the back of your neck. It's quick relief and will help you cool off. Running your wrists under cool water is an old southern trick that helps, too.

WHEN IN DOUBT, GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM.

If you suddenly have a hard time breathing, feel faint, disoriented or no longer feel hot when you've been outside, it's time to make a beeline for the ER. Heatstroke is nothing to fool with; people die from it every year.

Stay cool, Chicago!

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    Lucy Lloyd

    Writer, reporter, researcher, hockey mom. I'm an inveterate reader, relentlessly curious, and rarely without an opinion. I want to know the rest of the story and then I have to write it down. So I do.

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