About this time of year, early August, we Phoenicians start to get crazy from the heat. As of today, we’ve endured 73 days in a row of more than 100 degree days. May 4th was the first day the temp was over 100 this year, 102 to be exact. But it was down to 98 the next day and continued to decline until May 16 and with a few exceptions (4 to be exact), it’s been over 100 since May 26th.
Why am I getting so specific? Because, as I said, we Phoenicians get a little crazy from the heat and since I don’t go outside much in the summer, I have to think of creative ways to keep myself busy. So here’s my top 10 list to make it through a Phoenix summer.
10. Get your errands done before 9 am or after p.m. That’s right, especially your grocery shopping. And you must go straight home after the grocery because your frozen items will melt, even if you only live 10 minutes away. You could keep a cooler in your car and buy a bag of ice on your way out of the store, but that’s too much trouble for me.
9. Do not go barefoot, even to get the paper a few feet from the door, especially if it’s in the sun. You will burn your feet. You’ve heard of those “cool decks” on the sides of pools? Yeah, they aren’t that cool and unless your flip flops are right at the edge of your pool when you get out, you will burn. The exception, of course is if that area is shaded.
8. Keeping that in mind, don’t let your dogs walk on the pavement for more than a few steps. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for them too, only they won’t scream and jump around. They’ll just let their poor little paws fry. You could get them booties, but I’ve never had a dog that will wear them, and, oh by the way – it’s hot! Who wants to wear boots?
7. If you do have to be outdoors for an extended period of time (aside from being in the pool or lake) do the following; buy as many cold packs as they have on the shelf of your pharmacy. I’m talking about the pliable kind, not the blocks. Freeze them and before you leave, stick them everywhere on your body they will fit, preferably unnoticed. I keep one in my lower back, tucked into my undies, a couple around my waist, and I have a stick that is supposed to be used to keep your water bottles cold but I put that one in my bra, in between “the girls”. I once bought these things that you stuck under your boobs and were supposed to keep you cool for a couple hours. All it did was give me a nasty rash.
6. Wear a hat. The sunglasses go without saying, but if you want to stay cooler, you must realize that your head is the closest thing to the sun and if you cover that up, it really helps. And, depending on the size of your brim (from just in front like a ball cap to all the way around or the more serious versions that cover your face and your neck) you can really get some serious shading, not to mention the fashion statements you can create.
5. Be careful getting into a car. According to Vincent Iannelli, M.D in a recent article in About.com, “on a typical summer day, the temperature inside a car (even with the windows rolled down a little) can quickly rise above 120 to 140 degrees”. This guy was talking about a “typical summer day” and he lives in Dallas, which is a lot cooler than Phoenix. So basically we are talking about entering an oven. Would you think about entering an oven without oven mitts?
When I first moved to Phoenix in the 70’s someone sent me an article written by the wonderful humorist Erma Bombeck, who also happened to live here. They thought she was so funny when she talked about using oven mitts to get into, then drive her car. I thought it was the best idea yet. A little clumsy but it does the trick. And don’t forget the sun shades for your windshield. It makes it significantly cooler when you get into your car, although your steering wheel can still be very toasty.
4. Do we even have to talk about leaving babies and dogs (or any animals) in the car? The statistics are gruesome and we hear about them almost every day around here. While I’ve never been so distracted that I forgot a baby in my backseat, hundreds of kids die each year because of this, not to mention the countless animals that do. The last time I heard of this, they were giving tips to help you remember you had a baby in the back seat. They said to always take off one of your shoes and keep it near the baby when you load it into the car. That way, when you go to leave you will notice that you are missing a shoe. I don’t mean to make light of this very serious subject, but what state of mind does a person have to be in where they would notice they are missing a shoe but not notice they forgot their baby in the back seat?
3. Wear sunscreen, all the time. I will admit I don’t always do this. I only do it when I know I will be exposed to the sun for more time than just running to and from my car, when actually that is harmful too. I’m always surprised by people who don’t. I recently went on vacation in northern Arizona with a friend. While it was significantly cooler up there (by at least 30 degrees), the sun is still hot. Even hotter because you are at such a high elevation. We were out in the sun, fly fishing, for 5 hours. At least she was. I sat under a covered porch for the last 3, but I pleaded with her to wear sunscreen. She refused, and guess what? She burnt the hell out of her skin. We all know what that feels like and how it can ruin a vacation, not to mention the potential for skin cancer.
2. Keep hydrated. According to emedicinehealth.com, “Medically, dehydration usually means a person has lost enough fluid so that the body begins to lose its ability to function normally and then begins to produce symptoms related to the fluid loss.” Mild to moderate dehydration can include increased thirst, dry mouth, being tired, decreased or low volume urine output that is more yellowish than normal, headaches, dry skin, dizziness and few or no tears. Severe dehydration can include dizziness or lightheadedness that prevent you from standing or walking, blood pressure drops, rapid heart rate, fever, lethargy, confusion, coma, seizure or shock.
Now that I’ve gotten you totally panicked, here is what you can do to prevent dehydration. Yes, planning in advance is key. Don’t just drink water when you are out in the heat for prolonged periods of time. Start pumping the fluids a day or two before and avoid alcohol because it increases water loss and decreases your ability to sense the early signs.
1. And the number one tip for surviving a Phoenix summer – Get Out Of Town, frequently. This is the time you pay your friends and relatives back who escaped their cold winters to vacation at your house. The neat thing about living here is you are only two hours away from significantly cooler temps, so head up to Flagstaff, Munds Park or the White Mountains for a few days. You’ll be so glad you did. And think positive. The high temp is predicted to be under 100 in three weeks, 89 by October 15 and in the 70’s starting November 7th. On November 30th it goes into the 60’s at which point you’ll be complaining about how cold you are, completely forgetting about now. If you do, think ahead because it’s predicted to be over 100 again On May 31, 2015.
Hot Arizona Sun
Be careful of the Arizona sun. It is hotter than in other places. You can burn very easily which is why it’s so important to wear sunscreen. A hat and sunglasses help too.
Running in the desert
Exercise in the heat can be very dangerous. Always hydrate and day or two before any outside exercise and bring plenty of water and drinks to replenish your electrolytes such as Gatorade.
Yes, it’s a dry heat, but it’s still plenty hot. Remember to hydrate your skin too by drenching it with a good moisturizer. It’s best to apply when you are a little damp after the shower. Don’t forget your lips and use a good lip balm with SPF.