Ways to Beat the Heat Without Air Conditioning

On a very hot day, there’s not much that feels more satisfying than chilling out in the AC. Most of us have come to take it for granted. But there are many reasons you may decide to go without air conditioning, or at least keep it set lower during the summer—whether you’re watching your electric bill, looking out for the environment, or dealing with a summer blackout.

After all, our pioneer forebears got through plenty of scorching heat without air conditioning. But they found plenty of ways to reduce their discomfort. Try these low-tech cooling tips the next time you’re wishing for a little air-conditioned comfort:

Be Free and Breezy

It may be tough to believe on a 100-degree day, but our own bodies are natural cooling machines. When we sweat, the evaporation of that moisture works to cool us off. The only hitch? When that sweat gets trapped–whether by still air or non-breathable clothing—we can’t cool off as well. Keep air moving past you using fans, and wear loose-fitting, breathable fabrics like cotton or linen that let heat and moisture out.

How Low Can You Go?

Heat naturally rises, so you may notice that the first floor of your house is cooler than the second, and that your basement is even cooler than the first. A basement also benefits from natural below-ground coolness. (If you decide to sleep there, be sure you have the proper safety accommodations.)

Even if you can’t go underground, you may get some benefit from staying closer to the floor. If you don’t feel like moving your mattress to the floor, consider a cooling mat of bamboo (or one of these fancier options). You can use many of these as a mattress topper if you’d like a little more cushion beneath you.

Ice It Down

Ice was the go-to means of keeping people and food cold before the invention of electric refrigeration. And it works just as well today. Drink plenty of ice-cold water, cool off sheets and socks in the freezer before going to bed, or even set a fan to blow across a basin of ice cubes.

Get Liquid

Speaking of water, staying hydrated is also key to staying cool. Your body needs water to produce enough sweat for evaporative cooling. Drink it cold and keep it close at hand.

Water can help outside your body, too. Try a cool shower before bedtime to remove the sticky layer of sweat. Take a lukewarm bath. Or use cold, wet washcloth on your temples or other pulse point (see below).

Cool Your Core

Your body wants to stay around 98.6—that’s one of the reasons you sweat to cool off. To help your body out, you can try cooling your body’s pulse points—the aforementioned temples, your wrists, the insides of your elbows and knees, and your groin and armpits. These areas tend to produce excess sweat, so they’ll help you feel cooler faster. And they help adjust your core temperature, so you feel cooler all over.

Play it Safe

These methods are great for surviving typical summer temperatures, but there are times when heat is so severe that emergency measures are called for. The Red Cross offers online resources explaining how to prepare for and cope during a heat emergency. Check in regularly with children and older friends and relatives who may not have the dangers of heat exposure top-of-mind. And remember: Pets can get sick from the heat as well. Make sure they have adequate water and a place to stay cool.

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