As I have written many times in the past, if you don't like the weather here, just stick around and it will change before you know it. Welcome to the Midwest. It just so happens the heat has taken over the topic of discussions lately. Heat indexes over 100 degrees has prompted cooling centers and school closings. Does anyone remember life without air conditioners? The hot summers in Illinois are not breaking news. We did not have to go home from school because of the heat. It didn't matter anyway, our homes were just as hot as the schools. Forget riding in a cool car too. The hot air rushing through the open windows was considered air conditioning and you turned this on by actually turning a crank to adjust the air flow. Some of you will get this. Then, the family splurged and purchased one window air conditioner. The debate on which room it was going to be installed began. The living room, which was the family's room before the actual 'family room' was invented, at which time it became the 'museum'. Yep, the room no one was allowed in because you would mess it up. That's another story. For now, it is the living room chosen to house the wonderful window wind machine that made our dreams come true. Of course the dreams were not in our beds because we all camped out in the living room and slept on the floor. This was because the debate for the couch, or commonly then referred to as a davenport, was not pretty and resulted in "nobody gets it if you can't get along". Oh the fond memories.
How do we cope with these hot spells now? Here's a few helpful hints you can do with or without air conditioning.
- Visit a cool, air conditioned facility such as a library, shopping mall, or movie theater. Keep Cool Illinois is a collaborative effort by state agencies to have cooling centers opened during most of the "hot spells". Take a ride in an air conditioned vehicle. Rockford Park District activates their spray pads.
- Believe it or not, you can actually eat foods that will help you stay cool. Eating salads with fresh produce this time of year is an excellent way to keep body temps lower. Bring out the crock pot or slow cooker instead of heating up the kitchen. Sandwiches and wraps make a great, healthy alternative to cooking. Snack on hummus, guacamole, and salsa. Eating spicy foods actually aids in perspiration, which is our body's "keep cool" process. Healthy, cold cottage cheese or frozen yogurt will cool off the taste buds, however, there's also ice cream and popsicles for the sweet tooth.
- Ice packs aren't just for pain. When applied to a wrist, forehead, neck, joints, lower back or behind the knees an ice pack sends cool thoughts to the rest of the body. You may also want to slip one under your pillow or in your bed to fall asleep.
- Be sure to wear light, loose fitting clothing. Circulating air is the key to staying cool. Don't confine your feet in shoes and socks but wear sandals or other breathable footwear. Stick with sun reflecting pastel colors or white.
- We cannot drink enough water. During hot temperatures water can help cool in other ways also. A dip in a pool or lake, taking a shower, or pouring cold water over hands and feet help the body feel cooler. Wetting your hair without blow drying it keeps your head cooler longer, especially if you wear it up in a bun.
- There are measures you can take to help keep your house cool. Keep sunlight out by using light blocking shades or blinds during the day. Use energy smart light bulbs and keep light usage at a minimum, as well as heat producing appliances. Create your own air conditioning unit by placing a bucket of ice in front of a fan just under the blades. The fan will blow the cool air coming from the ice.
Hopefully you can enjoy the last days of summer. Remember, soon we'll be shoveling! Stay cool!