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How to Beat the Summer Heat: Practical Tips for Keeping Cool

Practical tips on staying cool and healthy—even on the hottest day.

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Summer forecast across Canada - heat in MontrealPhoto: Shutterstock

Prepare for a Long, Hot Summer

Canadian scientists forecast that climate change will mean longer, hotter summer heat waves (defined as three or more days with temps above 30 degrees Celsius). By 2051, major Canadian cities such as Ottawa could experience heat waves of 17 days or more.

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Beat summer heat - take a warm bathPhoto: Shutterstock

Take A Warm Bath

For a better sleep on a hot summer night, hop in the the tub an hour or two before bed. The warmth of the water sends blood to your extremities, allowing body heat to dissipate more quickly. Your core temperature will gradually decline, cueing the start of your body’s sleep cycle.

Follow our sleep hygiene checklist for the deep, restful sleep of your dreams.

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Woman drinking water outdoorsPhoto: Shutterstock

Stay Hydrated

“One of the most important ways to prevent heat-related illnesses is to drink plenty of fluids,” says Ian Fitzpatrick, Prevention and Safety, Canadian Red Cross. Aim for eight 250 mL glasses of fluid a day.

Find out the best drinks to stay hydrated.

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Beat summer heat by drinking water Photo: Shutterstock

Trick Yourself Into Drinking More Water

You can easily add at least three cups a day by drinking a glass of water before your morning coffee, right before lunch, and another as you’re getting ready for bed.

Check out the surprising health benefits of staying hydrated.

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Beat summer heat by eating spicy food - chili peppersPhoto: Shutterstock

Eat Spicy Food

Capsaicin, a compound in chilies that gives them kick, triggers a response in your nervous system that makes your face sweat and cools you down.

Here’s more expert advice on how to stay cool in extreme heat.

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Beat summer heat - sun hat and sunglassesPhoto: Shutterstock

Dress For Success

When under the sun, wear a light hat and loose-fitting light clothing that allows sweat to escape.

Beef up your summer sun protection with these expert-approved sunscreen tips.

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Beat summer heat - parking lot filled with parked carsPhoto: Shutterstock

Park With Care

Never leave your child or pet in a parked car, even for just a few minutes—deaths have been recorded with outside temperatures as low as 21 degrees Celsius.

Brush up on the seven essential CPR steps.

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Coping with Summer Heat - Car DogPhoto: Shutterstock

Don’t Rely on a Cracked-Open Window

Cracking a window won’t help. “Vehicles are an enclosed space with a metal outer shell,” Fitzpatrick says. “They heat up very fast and have little, if any, air movement when the windows are closed.” Even with the windows ajar, the inside temperature can quickly increase to dangerous levels.

Learn how to spot the warning signs of heat stroke in dogs.

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Summer hot - senior woman on phone in parkPhoto: Shutterstock

Protect Seniors

Age can make you more vulnerable to heat stress. “Babies, children and the elderly are less able to sweat and adjust to changes in temperature,” Fitzpatrick says. The risk becomes even greater for seniors who live alone, take certain medications or have cardiorenal disease.

Learn the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

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Summer heat - senior manPhoto: Shutterstock

Know the Symptoms of Heat-Related Illness

Early symptoms of heat-related illness in elderly people don’t always include thirst. Check in with those who may be isolated; headache, confusion, dizziness or nausea may be signs they need immediate medical attention.

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Walking 10,000 steps a day builds musclePhoto: Shutterstock

Take Things Slow and Steady

Planning an exceptionally long bike ride? Ease into it. Prior to a major event in the heat, let your body gradually acclimatize. Expose yourself to one to two hours of heat exertion a day for at least eight days.

Find out what happens to your body when you start walking 10,000 steps a day.

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Summer heat - margaritaPhoto: Shutterstock

Avoid Alcohol

Although a frosty margarita might seem like just the ticket, alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it dehydrates you. For every unit of alcohol you consume (a shot of liquor, half a pint of beer or half a glass of wine), you urinate 80 mL extra on top of your normal output.

Here’s exactly how much water you should be drinking to stay hydrated.

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Beat summer heat - setting thermostatPhoto: Shutterstock

Don’t Go Overboard on the AC

Save energy and cool your house by setting your air conditioner as close to the outside temperature as you can comfortably stand, supplementing with ceiling fans if needed. Keep windows shaded during the day, and turn off sneaky heat-producing devices like incandescent bulbs, PCs and laptops.

Next, check out more tips on how to cool your house without AC.

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada