One of the questions that I get the most often this time of year concerns how we avoid heat-related illness. There is so much that you can do. Unfortunately, it would seem that in our modern technology driven society, people have forgotten how to stay healthy in the heat without the use of fans or air conditioners.
The first summer without a fan or air conditioner was the toughest. We were so accustomed to using them that going without was a real struggle. We didn’t have A/C in the vehicles either. We simply had to tough it out and use common sense to ease the way. On the hottest of days, my in-laws would pick up the kids and take them to their house, which has the A/C and fans to cool themselves. Being the kids were very young, I appreciated that. It didn’t happen every day, but on those days when the temps topped 105*F or more. I stayed home. I knew that I had to adapt to the heat if we were going to make this work.
Adapting to the heat is the one factor that people often forget. Being acclimated to the heat doesn’t mean that you feel cool. It simply means that your body has grown used to the heat and is not as susceptible to heat-related illnesses. Acclimating to the heat is more than simply letting your body adjust to it. It also requires that you adjust your daily life as well.
The first thing that I learned was to drink lots of water. Anyone who knows me well, understands just how rough that one is for me. I don’t like the taste of even the bottled water. If I drink the amount of water that we are supposed to each day, I get stomach aches and feel nausea. I never have liked drinking water because of how sick I feel afterwords. Luckily, our kids do not share my problems with drinking water. Both will drink more than the daily recommended amounts. By staying hydrated, they are less likely to have heat related problems.
Second thing that I found to help was to adjust our daily tasks. We rise early and begin homeschooling immediately after breakfast. The day is still very comfortable at that time. By noon, the schooling is done. We have lunch and then the kids play outdoors. We have a small pool set up along with other water toys in the shaded area. The kids go out there and spend most of the afternoon in the water. They are shaded enough to not have to deal with the hot sun. They drink plenty of water throughout the afternoon. No one does any chores in the hottest hours of the day. This is critical for us. By slowing down the physical work, we avoid becoming overheated. As the kids play in the water, I sit in the shade and read or do some other quiet activity such as crocheting or hand sewing. It is a perfect time for me to hand-stitch some quilt blocks together.
Taking about an hour in the mid-afternoon as a rest period is another method of coping with the heat. The kids can either take a nap, look at books, or do some other quiet activity in their bedroom. The key factor being that they are sitting or laying down quietly to give their bodies a rest. Some days, the kids are very good at doing this. Other days, it is a struggle. I notice that the hottest days are the ones that give us the most problem. For that reason, I have the water toys and pool in a shaded area.
If the heat index is going to be fairly high, I will take the kids in the car and head to the library, the lake, or some other location where they can stay cooler. This gives us a day out as well. Before leaving the house, we make sure the dog and our 2 kittens have more than enough water for the day. If we happen to have some ice cubes, I will add a handful of those to the kittens’ water dish since they are indoor cats.
At home, we have a couple of tricks that we use to stay cooler. The first is to have those scarves that are soaked in water before wearing. We have 2 scarves for each child. This allows them to have a second one soaking while they are wearing the first. When the scarf they are wearing is no longer cooling them, we switch the scarves out for the second one that was soaking in water. By having an extra scarf in water, they don’t have to wait before putting a cooler scarf on. Another gadget that we have are the small battery-operated hand held fans. These are the small ones that have foam blades. These fans are wonderful! While they won’t cool the house, they are effective in keeping us more comfortable in the afternoon.
Each night, the kids get a lukewarm bath to help cool them down so that they will have a good night’s rest. We are blessed to have our old home. These old houses were built to take advantage of cross breezes. In the bedrooms, I place a sheet of foil covered cardboard from a large box into the top half of the bedroom windows. The foil is only needed on one side of the cardboard. Place the foil onto the cardboard with the shiny side facing outward. By placing this into the window (foil side facing the window) the heat from the sun is reflected away from the bedrooms. Another option is to go to a dollar store and get the foil-looking reflector that is used in a car’s windshield to keep the car cooler when parked.
Meal preparation is another source of heat that can affect you in the summer. I stop baking loaves of bread and will either make tortillas or some type of flat bread to use in place of home-baked loaves. If I do need a loaf of bread, I go to the bakery outlet store and buy it there. I cook mostly in the early morning or late evening hours. In summer, we eat a lot of cold salads and meals instead of hot ones. This prevents the house from being heated too much from using the stove or oven. We are planning to put together an outdoor kitchen. This will be a blessing in the summer months. I can bake and do the cooking without the temperature of the oven/stove affecting the heat of the area around me. I am doing my home canning in the late evening or early morning for the same reasons. Once we have an outdoor kitchen, I will be able to process the jars there.
One final tip that I want to share concerns cell phones. It is not unusual in the triple-digit heat to have a warning pop up saying that your cell phone battery cannot charge due to the temperature of the battery being too high. I found a way to help prevent that from happening. Take a potholder and lightly dampen it. Place the potholder into your freezer to freeze. When I charge up my battery on the cell phone, I place the frozen potholder inside a dishtowel that is folded in half. Place the cell phone on top of the towel so that the back of the cell phone is facing downward. I do this whenever the cell phone is getting heated up too much. It doesn’t hurt the phone but will prevent the battery from becoming too hot. These same frozen potholders make great moldable ice packs for injuries also.
There is much that you can do to get through the heat of summer. Hopefully, some of these ideas will be of benefit to others.