My 15 Ultimate Beat-the-Heat Tips (Bet You Haven't Heard Them All!) | The Survival Doctor



by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

In the Deep South right now, it’s about heat wave time, otherwise known as the season of year when you step outside and right into a sauna. I know because I grew up in Mississippi.

If you also grew up in an area that gets really hot, you may think you know everything there is to know to beat the heat. But you haven’t read this post! I bet I can surprise you—at least once?

Even people used to working in the heat all day can suffer dangerously come that first heat wave—when the temperature and humidity suddenly soars 5–10 degrees or hotter. And imagine having to be outside after a disaster or while stranded in the wilderness, with no chance for air conditioning.

Here are some Survival Doctor tips, facts, answers and more—all to help you beat the heat.

Hmmm. Very Interesting.

4 surprising beat-the-heat facts

  1. That fan may not be cooling you, even if it feels good. Once the temperature reaches the 90s, fans have questionable effectiveness in cooling your core. Some people think fans can make you hotter by constantly bombarding you with hot air. So don’t depend on them as your sole beat-the-heat method.
  2. A heat rash isn’t just annoying; it makes it harder for you to cool off. It clogs up sweat glands so they don’t work properly. So treat it if you get one.
  3. Exhaustion can unpredictably become stroke. Heat exhaustion can gradually, quietly turn into heatstroke, or the symptoms of the two disorders can overlap. And heatstroke often is deadly—sometimes no matter what you do. So it’s very important to know the early signs of heat exhaustion and take immediate action to cool down.
  4. You could die before you realize you’re too hot. One of the early signs of heat exhaustion can be confusion. If that happens, you may not realize you’re getting too hot. So keep a buddy around. A companion might recognize this and be better able to advise you on what to do.
Warning: Heatstroke

If you have any symptoms of a heatstroke, call 911 if it’s available. Here’s a post on some symptoms and what you can do if you can’t get expert help.

What’s Worse?

Head-to-head heat comparisons

1. Which is worse for heat: a humid or dry climate?

Answer: Both.

Humid climates are worse because the more the more humid the air, the slower the sweat evaporates. The slower the sweat evaporates, the less it cools you down.

Dry climates are worse because the sweat evaporates quicker. That’s good to cool you down but can dehydrate you pretty fast. Drink lots of fluids.


2. Which is worse:
staying in a steady, high level of heat all day or going inside periodically for a shock of air conditioning?

Answer: Staying hot is worse.

If you can go inside to the air conditioning, do it. That’s one of the most effective ways to beat the heat. Some people might think getting cold, then hot isn’t good for you. But the most important thing is not to get too hot. And there’s nothing like good old air conditioning to cool you down.

The Classics

The intriguing reasons behind some classic tips

The tip: Stay inside, in the air conditioning.

The reason: People survived for thousands of years with no air conditioning, so surely we can too, right? Well, yes, but people also died without air conditioning (and made houses differently, etc., but that’s another post).

As I’ve said, air conditioning is one of the most effective ways to cool off. And no matter how in shape they are or how much they’re used to staying outside, anyone can succumb to the heat during a heat wave. That’s because the body has to slowly acclimate to hot weather, and a sudden heat wave doesn’t allow for that.

Fan Tip

If you’re using a fan, try putting ice in front of it so it blows cooler air.

If you don’t have air conditioning, consider going to the mall or a “cooling down” area in your city, if it offers those.

The tip: Take frequent breaks in the shade.

The reason: The harder you work, the more heat your body generates. You’re running your own, personal furnace. (This is the same reason you’re advised to do the heavy work in the morning and afternoon, the earlier and later the better.)

Don’t wait until you think you need a break. You may be too late.

The tip: Go jump in a lake.

The reason: Water evaporating off your body cools it off. But also, if the water is cooler than the air temperature, that provides a nice, cool treat. Instead of going for a swim, you could douse your head with cool water or take a lukewarm shower. Some people suggest keeping a cool, wet bandana around your neck.

>> Page 2: Fluids: Salt, coconut water, and using hot drinks to cool down.