An open letter to our European friends who are trying to survive the heat wave.
That Mother Nature - what a joker. She's gotten a bit mixed up and has given you weather intended for North America. Meanwhile, we're getting your weather. So, in the spirit of sharing, I'm rolling up the sleeves on my sweatshirt and writing up a brief guide to surviving hot weather.
How to Dress
Wear as few clothes as personal modesty and local ordinances permit. It won't be pretty, but we're talking survival here, not a beauty contest. Natural fabrics such as cotton and linen in light colours are best, as well as synthetic 'sports' fabrics that wick away perspiration. Avoid polyester like the plague; it holds in heat and sweat, allowing you to stew in your own juices.
Remember those pictures of fat Americans wearing skimpy tank tops and shorts? How could they let themselves appear in public like that, you asked yourself. Now you know.
When you step out of the shower, bath, or other ablutions, don't dry yourself off; let the water evaporate and cool you.
If you can get away with it, wear wet clothes.
Make your own 'air conditioning': soak a hand towel in water, wring it out, and stick it in the fridge or freezer until it's good and cold. Then wrap the towel around your neck.
Go barefoot! Your feet will love you. (Your housemates may not. Your boss definitely won't.)
What to Eat
Be sure to drink lots of liquids. You need to replenish the water you're losing to perspiration. I know, perspiration is disgusting, but it's Nature's way of cooling your body. Sweat proudly.
If you're sweating a lot, you need to think about replacing your electrolytes as well as water. Sports drinks are good for this.
Putting ice in your drinks is a good idea. If you don't have any ice cube trays at home, you can freeze water in small, flexible plastic containers.
You wondered why Americans put ice in everything? Now you know.
Eat lightly. High-calorie meals raise your body's metabolism, and you'll shed the excess calories as heat. That's the last thing you need right now. Think fresh fruits and vegetables, cold salads, and the like.
Four words: ice cream for breakfast! You're entitled to some fun.
Take it easy! This is not the time to take up running. It may, in fact, be time to stop running for a while, unless you can do so at night when it cools off.
The humidity will get you. Even if the temperature is tolerable, humid air prevents your perspiration from evaporating, thus short-circuiting your body's cooling mechanism. You'll know when this happens; your clothes with stick to you. Disgusting, isn't it? Anyway, adjust your behaviour accordingly.
Sleep alone. Toss that hairy body next to you out of the bed until the weather cools off. (The cat! I was talking about the cat! Shame on you for thinking otherwise. )
Speaking of which, don't forget your companion animals. Many are suffering through the heat while wearing a fur coat. Be sure they have plenty of water to drink and a (relatively) cool place to escape to during the day.
If you don't have air conditioning, open all the windows around 5.00 am and get the house as cool as possible. When the temperature begins to rise, close the windows and pull the shades and curtains. This will keep your house as cool as possible during the day.
Learn to recognize the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke and the treatment for same. Don't try to 'tough it out' - hot weather can kill you.
Attitude is important; it helps you survive things that you can't do anything about. So...
Think cold thoughts. Start your Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Solstice Celebration gift list. Remember that day last winter when the power went out and you froze your patootie off. Cherish the memory.
Reminisce about heat waves of the past. Tell everyone within earshot that it was hotter when you were young. They'll all leave the room, thus lowering the temperature.
Have a contest. Complete the following sentence: 'It's so hot that...'. Colourful language and images are encouraged.
See if you really can cook an egg on the hot sidewalk. (This works in Phoenix, Arizona.)
Make sun tea. Fill a pitcher with water and add tea or tea bags to taste. Sit the pitcher in the sun. In a few hours you will have the clearest, loveliest tea you can imagine. Put the pitcher in the fridge to chill the tea, or add ice (you did make ice, didn't you?)
Kids! Think water balloons and squirt guns. The water will cool you off and your parents will be too hot and tired to yell at you for the mess.
Complain. Whinge. Whine. Cry. Kvetch. You're miserable, you're allowed to be unhappy about it. We Americans understand, believe me. (And we promise not to snicker. Honest.)
Remember: this too shall pass. )