In some of our other blog posts, we go over the effects that extreme heat has on your health and how it's especially challenging for athletes and frontline workers. We could go on for days about the climate of today’s heat situation (pun intended), but we’ll just give you the Cliffnotes before we move into some tips that will help you adapt to this warming climate.
Have you ever heard of a wet bulb temperature? In short, it is a measure of heat-stress on humans by combining dry air temperatures (like you’d see on a normal thermometer) with humidity. Humidity and air temp both play crucial roles in determining when it is and isn’t healthy for people, even the in-shape youngins, to safely go about their daily activities.
According to a recent study, “too hot” for healthy physical outdoor activity is when wet-bulb temperatures exceed 88°F (31°C). Temperatures over 95°F (35°C) are considered life-threatening. Even a healthy human could die within hours without access to water or shelter when the wet-bulb thermometer reads this high.
To a certain point, your body is self-cooling. But at a wet-bulb temp of 95°F (35°C), your body’s ability to thermoregulate is extremely limited. And that’s where the danger happens. The stress is compounded by the strain of the body having to compensate for being too hot, physiologically working overtime to cool itself.
The study tested a variety of relative humidities and air temps, making these findings applicable no matter where you are in the world. So as surface temperatures rise and heatwaves become more frequent and more severe, people all around the world will need accessible, health-centric solutions to adapt to climate change.
“Heat is the leading type of weather fatality in the United States and one of the largest causes of weather-related deaths worldwide.”
Let it be known, some solutions are easier than others. You might not always have access to cold water, fans, or ice, so we’ll go over a variety of solutions that could help you prepare for the heat, cool off in a pinch, and avoid putting yourself at risk.
We’ll start with what steps you can take before you’re out in the heat that will help set you up for success. It’s better to be proactive in these situations rather than wait until you’re on your lunch break after working outside all morning, dumping ice water on your head just to get some relief. Don’t be that guy.
If you know there’s a heatwave coming but you still have to be outdoors (whether it's for work, leisure, prior commitments, or lifestyle necessities), there are some things you can do proactively to keep your body temperature regulated. Since your body will physiologically try to regulate itself, any help you give it will go a long way.
Staying hydrated means with both food & drink!
The trick is to drink before you’re thirsty, hydrate before you’re dehydrated, nourish before you’re malnourished, and be proactive in any form of getting those electrolytes. Do it well and do it often, so that any time you’re faced with a sweaty situation, your body is well stocked and won’t get depleted quickly.
Sometimes we just think about drinking water in relation to hydration but depending on your diet, we get at least 20% of our daily water intake from food.
Here are some highly hydrating foods you can eat to fuel your body’s water tank:
If you’re feeling fancy, check out some of these hydrating, no-cook recipes that are perfect for before or during a heatwave.
It’s worth a note that some have speculated that eating lighter meals may help preserve energy since complex foods take more energy to break down, producing more heat in the body. But you also tend to lose your appetite when it’s extremely hot out.
Do what feels comfortable for you and your body. Eat nutritious food (aka fresh fruits and veggies, not processed food), eat enough to fuel your body, and listen to your body. This goes for eating and drinking.
Here's what we recommend:
Classic water will always be a top hydrator, but the amount of water you need to drink varies depending on the person, climate, and activity level.
Skim milk and whole milk contain mostly water with the addition of sodium and potassium—perfect for replacing what you sweat out. We’re talking cow milk here. You’d have to do a lot of due diligence on your non-dairy alternative to see if it would have the same benefits.
Caffeine free is the most ideal, but any kind of tea includes antioxidants that will help fuel your body.
Low in sugar and calories but high in nature’s electrolytes (potassium, sodium and manganese).
REAL Fruit Juice
Whether you infuse plain water with some lemon or strawberries, or blend up watermelon and orange, make sure you’re using real fruit juices to add natural vitamins without all the added sugars in store-bought juice.
Maybe not your go-to choice, but we’re all about nature’s nutrients. Healthy salts in broth help balance our pH level and your electrolytes.
Sports drinks are better for intermittent or prolonged exercise where you’re actively losing electrolytes and carbs. In terms of being proactive, we recommend hydrating on water and saving the sports drinks for your lunch break.
While there are numerous other benefits of being well hydrated (like more energy, better brain function, healthier heart, decreased joint pain…), but we’re highlighting the role it plays in regulating your body temperature during extremely hot temperatures
When you’re dehydrated, your body stores more heat. And when it needs to cool down, your body sweats. And in order to sweat, your body needs to be well hydrated!
Sweating is your body’s built-in method of cooling, preventing heat-related illnesses and symptoms of heat exhaustion. If you can’t sweat enough, your body temperature can rise to dangerous levels, which can be easily reached during the severe heat waves we’ve been having and the seasons of extreme heat around the globe.
Okay, I know this term is obnoxiously overused but it definitely applies to the situation. When preparing for extreme heat, there’s more to how you dress than you think. It's not just about ripping off all the layers or trying to live in your bathing suit (although sometimes those are pretty satisfying options). Instead, think about what your clothes are made of, what activity you’re embarking on, how humid it is, what kind of sun you’ll be getting, and even what colors you reach for.
Fabrics are pretty dependent on what you’re doing—taking into account how humid it is and much you may sweat.
Cotton is one of the best materials overall because it's natural, lightweight, soft, and good for sensitive skin. It absorbs a lot of sweat, which could be a good thing or a bad thing. If it’s really humid or you plan on sweating a lot, opt for something a bit more moisture wicking.
Linen, unlike cotton, absorbs moisture and dries quickly to keep you cool. It has some trouble drying in ultra humid climates but honestly, what doesn’t? Linen is also somewhat stiff which, in this case, would work to your advantage. Assuming it's not a size too small, it will hang off your body nicely and allow for a lot of airflow.
If it’s super humid or you plan on being active in the heat, check out Rayon as your go-to fabric. A blend of natural and synthetic fibers, it’s meant to imitate the appearance of silk (which if you’re on that level, is also a great fabric for the heat). Rayon is breathable, lightweight, and won’t stick to your skin but be mindful of how you’re washing it.
For the high performers out there, check out Nylon and Polyester in synthetic-fiber athletic wear. Many of these types of clothing are engineered to be quick drying, moisture wicking, and breathable. A lot of brands make custom athletic blends using these fabrics, but be mindful of how the plastic fibers may break down and if they irritate your skin.
Though my teenage dirtbag self would roll in its grave if it knew I was saying this—definitely skip the black when it comes to choosing your outfit for a hot day.
Dark and bold colors absorb the sun’s rays and therefore the heat, trapping it close to your body. Instead, go for lighter colors like fun pastels, beige, white, or gray. White especially tends not to absorb any light wavelengths, giving the fabric nothing to convert to heat.
The science behind why choosing the right colors can help you regulate your body temperature is related to wavelengths of light. Colors themselves appear the way they do because that color is being reflected back to your eye and not absorbed by the object. If you see a red barn, for example, that means the surface is absorbing all of the light wavelengths except red. It's bouncing red off and back to your eyes, making the barn appear red.
So while white is the absence of color (bouncing all of the wavelengths off of it), black is all of the colors in one and absorbs all of the light wavelengths. Wavelengths = energy and energy = heat.
Once the wavelengths are absorbed by the item, in this case an article of clothing, they are converted into energy, aka heat. This is all a really long way of telling you that dark color will make you feel hotter!
In context, depending on the color and shade of your other outfit choices, some light waves will be absorbed while others will bounce. A green shirt will absorb the red and blue wavelengths, while reflecting the green away. So it absorbs some heat, but not all of it. And a light pastel green shirt will be better on a hot day than a dark army green.
Not that you should base your entire wardrobe off of the science of colors, but it is an easy way to prepare for an incoming heat wave. I have a tendency to brag about functionality so if you’re anything like me, let’s break out the functional heat wave white outs. ✌️
If you insist on wearing darker colors in the heat (it’s cool, we’ve all been there), make sure they are loose fitting and allow for air flow. If the fabric hangs off of your skin, the heat absorbed by the black fabric may be lost before hitting the skin.
Actually, it’s best practice that all of your clothes should be loose fitting during a heat wave. When it’s humid outside, this is arguably one of the most important factors. Wearing clothing that hangs off your body even slightly will make you feel more comfortable and avoid that sticky feeling we all know too well.
Once you sweat and the fabric gets wet, even if it’s moisture wicking, you’ll be able to feel how it sticks to your body. Lightweight woven fabrics are the best for this, or even something with texture to it. Linen that hands off your body or those soft golf shirts the men wear are both good options to reach for on an extremely hot day.
It might be your first instinct to ditch the hat, backpack, and bandana because it’s already hardly bearable to be outside and why should we carry more things??
But consider being soaked in sweat and passing by a stream of cool water on your hike… dipping that bandana in the water… and putting it around the back of your neck. You’ll be mighty glad you stuck a bandana or scarf in your bag.
I personally know someone who bought a fabric visor for paddle boarding and when the heat got too much to bear out on the water, you better believe she dunked her whole hat in the water and put it back on her head! Not only did the visor keep the sun off her face, but it also gave her an extra boost of cooling from the cool water AND from the evaporation that happened afterward. Evaporation pulled heat away from her body in this scenario, lowering her body temperature as the visor dried.
Brimmed hats like bucket hats or sun hats will be best to keep the beating sun off of you—but keep in mind our previously discussed topics. Make sure its a well-ventilated fabric, lighter color, and loose fitting with some UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) protection if possible!
Hats might actually make your head feel hotter, but if you choose the proper hat, it can be a real asset to gearing up for an extremely hot day. And the same goes for sunglasses.
Sunglasses are obviously helpful, but make sure they specify 100% UV protection. And then be mindful of when you’re wearing them. Don’t wear them indoors and don’t wear them first thing in the morning. Your eyes need to be exposed to light to know when it’s day or night so wearing sunglasses too often can mess with your sleep cycles and circadian rhythm. Hormones are released on a daily cycle to kickstart physical, mental and behavioral functions in your body.
It's better to actually get some sun on your face in the morning on purpose to let your body know: “it's time to wake up, get ready to adapt to the heat and get moving on the day”.
Sunglasses will be great when its the middle of the day, you’re getting hot, the sun is beating hard, and you need some extra protection.
Oh and that backpack you might want to leave at home? Where are you going to keep your bandana, water bottle, sunglasses, and sunscreen? Like the entire goal of this article, we want you to be prepared for the heat.
We want you to be proactive in extremely hot temperatures and do everything you can to protect yourself and adapt to climate change, without sacrificing all of your beloved outdoor activities.
Other than preparing your wardrobe and stocking the fridge, there are few basic things you should do if you know there’s a heat wave coming your way. If it’s the first of the season and this applies to you, we highly recommend checking your air conditioning. Maybe it’s been running at average capacity, but now it will be forced to kick into high gear.
I remember my little apartment AC unit that was on the wall only went down to a certain temperature and could only work so hard until it just didn’t get any colder. If that sounds anything like you, give it a test run. Whether you’re in a little apartment like I was, recently moved into somewhere new, or just want to do some due diligence, it’s better to know now rather than in the middle of the heat wave.
You can also make sure you have ice on hand to make cold drinks, ice packs in the freezer, Arctic Patches stocked, and fans at the ready if you can. Granted, the ice and fans are assuming you have electricity and refrigeration for them. If not, luckily the Arctic Patches don’t need it. While ice packs need to be kept in the freezer and melt almost as soon as you take them out (THEN have to be put BACK in the freezer 🙄), Arctic Patches can be used anywhere, anytime.
At the beginning of the article, we mentioned there aren’t many accessible options to keep you safe in a heat wave. All of the advice about hydration and clothing still applies but we recognize not everyone has the luxury of fresh foods, clean water, extensive clothing options, and air conditioning.
That’s why Eztia has designed an accessible, convenient, refrigeration-free way to keep your body at optimal temperature. HydraVolt™ technology isn’t cool to the touch, but it draws heat away from your body when applied to the skin.
The Arctic Patch is an accessible, health-centered solution for adapting to this warming climate. And because they never need refrigeration, it doesn't matter if you have access to electricity for AC, fans, and ice packs. Arctic Patches have you covered wherever you are in the world.
They’re also good for use in a pinch, but if you don’t have any on hand, we have other recommendations for how to cool off quickly in Part Two of this series.