South Africans are no strangers to the sun. We are fortunate enough to have weather that allows for majority of our time to be spent outdoors, kuier’ing and braai’ing with family and friends.
However, over the last few months many parts of the country have experienced scorching heatwaves, with temperatures soaring up into the 40s, worsening the already devastating drought situation.
2015 was stated to be the hottest year in historical record; owed mostly to a combination of global warming and the weather phenomenon, El Niño – an extensive warming of the Pacific Ocean that has a global affect on rainfall and temperature. Specifically it causes south-central Africa to experience a lower-than-normal level of rainfall.
Apart from high levels of discomfort, heatwaves are the cause of many heat-related illnesses such as dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Staying cool will not only improve your comfort levels and mood but will likely reduce stress and frustration.
When external temperatures rise our body’s core temperature adapts accordingly – the key to cooling down is to bring your core body temperature down. The fastest way to do this is to take a quick dip in the pool, a cold shower or soak your feet in a bucket of tepid water. Placing a cold, damp cloth on major pulse points such as your neck, wrists, elbows or ankles is another quick solution.
If you don’t have access to a pool, use these tried and true tips to cool both yourself and your home down:
Air-conditioners are a wondrous creation, however not all of us can afford this luxury. They’re costly, in energy and expense, and not always the most environmentally-friendly, budget-conscious option.
Your biggest investment, should you not have air-con, would be a fan. Not only will it circulate the air in a room and provide a cooling breeze, but two or more can be strategically positioned to create a crosswind.
Place a fan in front of a window facing outwards. This will blow the hot air out.
Another useful trick is to place a shallow dish filled with ice cubes in front of the fan. The breeze will lift the water from the surface of the ice as it melts and blow a cooling mist.
Portable, battery-operated fans attached to small water containers are also available from many Home Appliance stores and will achieve the same results as above.
Set your ceiling fans to run counterclockwise as this draws the hot air upwards and out rather than circulating it around the room.
Fill spray bottles and refrigerate for a quick, on-hand refreshing spritz.
Refrigerate body lotions and creams for a cool, soothing moisturiser.
Hanging a wet sheet in front of a window will cool the air blowing through and act as a screen against harsh sunlight streaming in. Alternatively close all curtains and blinds during the day to keep the sunshine and heat out.
Even low-wattage bulbs emit heat when turned on. To cool your home down in the evenings turn off all unnecessary lights. Better yet, light candles and enjoy an evening of candlelit ambiance.
Disconnect all electronics and unplug appliances as these also give off heat. Doing so will reduce the heat and your electricity bill.
The stove and oven are immediate room-warmers. Instead braai outside and eat smaller, more frequent meals. Opt for salads and stay away from large, dense meals like stews – these are more difficult to metabolise and leave you feeling hot and lethargic afterwards.
It’s almost impossible to sleep comfortably and deeply when its hot and humid. Change out satin and nylon fabric sheets for cotton as they’re lightweight and breathable, and are less likely to retain heat.
Cotton and down pillows allow less air to circulate and this can cause sweating and discomfort. Consider investing in a buckwheat pillow for a cooler night’s sleep.
Although the effects are brief, storing your sheets in a plastic bag in the freezer for 30 minutes prior to climbing into bed will allow for a cool respite from the heat before you fall asleep.
A more long-lasting option would be to fill a hot water bottle and place it in the freezer to use as a waterproof, bed-ready icepack once it’s frozen. Should you not own a hot water bottle, fill a sock with rice, tie, and freeze for a wonderfully easy, DIY, cold compress.
Wear lightweight, loose-fitting pajamas to bed.
Ensure you’re cool and comfortable with these heat-beating strategies. Stay hydrated and be mindful of those more susceptible to heat-related illnesses – the eldery, children and pets.