Texas, the largest state in the US, is famous for a lot of things—southern drawls, the word “ya’ll”, barbecue, bluebonnets, state pride, and searing hot summers, to name a few. Some of these may or may not be based on caricature/stereotype, but one that is accurate is the Texas heat.
According to Current Results, Texas consistently ranks in the top four hottest states in the country. It regularly reaches triple digits in the peak of summer, and any breeze that passes by will more than likely scald the eyeballs than offer a brief respite. Really. Point a blow dryer on high heat directly at your face for a few seconds, and you get an idea of what peak summer in Texas feels like (if you actually did this experiment, I hope you kept it at arm’s length).
Sweaty shorts aren’t your only worry, either. Heat stroke—when the body’s core temperature exceeds 104°F—is a real danger. Dallas County Health and Human Services recently issued a report showing that 174 people have been to the ER due to heat-related illnesses so far this year.
Texans (and health experts) know all sorts of ways to stay cool when outside; here are a few of those heat hacks.
Embrace the heat and let yourself sweat.
Nobody wants to be all sweaty and gross, but this is the body’s natural way of staying cool. It’s important to let your body sweat, and let that sweat evaporate, so the body can cool itself. Help beat the heat by wearing white or light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing. The light color absorbs less heat, while the looseness allows the skin to breathe and the sweat to evaporate. Use this hack at home, too—install drapes with white plastic lining on east- and west-facing windows to reduce your home’s heat absorption. The US Department of Energy has many more tips for keeping your home cool.
Hydrate and replenish electrolytes.
Many people go straight for the ice-cold beer on a hot day, and as refreshing as it may be at first, and as promising as it seems in commercials, it’s actually not doing you any favors. Alcohol is dehydrating, so if you must partake, remember to drink a glass of water in between. Caffeine fiends aren’t in the clear either, unfortunately—even with iced coffees—because the caffeine causes a heat reaction in the body that negates the initial cooling effect.
Eat light, refreshing foods.
Eating can heat the body’s core temperature as it works to digest food. The heavier the food, the harder the body has to work to break it down, so eat light. Fresh fruits, especially watermelon, peaches, and apricots, are not only refreshing, but will help keep you hydrated by replenishing water and electrolytes. Additional light fare to enjoy on a hot summer day includes seafood, leafy greens, cucumbers, radishes, and coconut water.
Avoid peak hours of the day.
The worst time of day to go outside in a Texas summer is between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Avoid going outdoors during this time, but if it can’t be avoided, wear light, loose clothing and stick to the shade as much as possible. You can also invest in small, handheld fans and misters—there are even fans you can attach to your cellphone.
If you’re going to be outside and don’t have a handheld fan or mister handy, there are other tools you can make yourself: try wrapping a wet bandana around your neck or make a homemade mister by filling a spray bottle with a mixture of water, peppermint oil, and aloe vera oil. What if you’re at home and your A/C goes out (as it always seems to do in the worst part of summer)? Cutting holes in a cooler filled with frozen water bottles and placing it in front of a fan will help cool the airflow the fan generates. If that’s too much work, even a simple bowl of ice water in front of the fan will work.
Eat spicy food. No, really.
Even I raised my eyebrow at this one, but science has proven that the capsaicin in spicy food raises the body’s internal temperature, causing you to sweat, which, as we’ve covered, helps the body cool down. Just remember to stay hydrated during the meal.
Staying cool isn’t just about staying comfortable; it’s about staying safe. Use these tips to stay refreshed and make beating the summer heat a breeze.