Too hot for you?
With forecasters predicting up to 110-degree temperatures each day this week, there's just one thing to do: Find reasons to stay inside a well-air-conditioned place. But that won't be an option for all people all of the time, so here's a crash course on other ways to stay cool — including some that may surprise you.
Eat, drink and be sweaty
Using your oven or stove never couples well with 100-degree heat, but when you do cook (in the cooler mornings and evenings recommended), consider making something spicy. Eating spicy foods increases blood circulation and temporarily raises your core body temperature, which induces sweating that cools you off as the sweat evaporates. Luke LaBorde, a food science professor at Penn State University, coined the phrase "gustatory facial sweating."
Similarly, while ice cream and ice-cold drinks sound like the perfect relief from scorching heat, a cup of hot tea may work even better. Like spicy foods, hot beverages can induce sweating that is a highly effective cooling mechanism in dry weather like the Rogue Valley's. (This trick doesn't work well in high humidity, when sweat won't evaporate.) Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol, which can dehydrate you.
Protect your skin
As celebrated as SPF numbers are for being indicators of protection levels in sunscreen, Medford dermatologist Dr. Jeri Mendelson says they're essentially useless. SPF numbers refer to protection from ultraviolet B rays, which cause sunburns, but not ultraviolet A rays, which are the culprits for long-term skin damage. There are many other factors to consider, she says, so it's worth doing some research. Consumer Reports tested 34 sunscreens and recommended 15 for best protection. These include Banana Boat SunComfort Continuous Spray, SPF 50+, L'Oreal Quick Dry Sheer Finish (spray) 50+, Coppertone Water Babies SPF 50 and Aveeno Protect+Hydrate, SPF 30.
Make the most of your air conditioner
When you're home, Pacific Power recommends setting your thermostat to 78 degrees to maximize efficiency (anything below that temperature can increase your energy cost by as much as 8 percent). When you leave the house, rather than turning your AC unit off, set your thermostat to 85 degrees, so the unit won't have to work so hard cooling down the place later. If you have a timer or programmable thermostat, start bringing the temperature back down to that optimal 78 degrees no more than 30 minutes before you get home. Clean or replace your air conditioner filters once a month — it helps them run more effectively.
Use fans strategically
If you don't have an air conditioner, use ceiling and box fans to circulate the stuffy air inside your home. (Those who can't afford a fan can call the Salvation Army at 541-773-6965.) Opening windows to the cooler evening and morning air and closing them as the day grows warmer helps seal the cooler air inside the house. Point fans facing out the windows, rather than toward you, to suck the stuffy hot air out before turning them back around on you. If you have another fan or window to open, a cross breeze will help lower the temperature even further.
Sit it out
The hard truth is, during the hottest parts of the day, labor-intensive activities can be dangerous. Try to schedule your work during the cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late evening. Melanie Mesaros, of the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration, says it's important for workers in landscaping, construction and agriculture to take necessary precautions to avoid heat illness.
"We would stress those three points: water, rest, shade," Mesaros said. "Employers have a responsibility to know the signs of heat stress, to keep an eye on their workers and watch for those signs."
Know the danger signs
Overheating progresses in stages. Cramps, dizziness and profuse sweating are often the precursors to heat exhaustion, which is when rapid heartbeat and a cold, clammy feeling settle in, accompanied by nausea. Heat stroke can occur when the body stops sweating and the core temperature exceeds 105 degrees F. If left untreated, it can lead to coma and even death.
If someone becomes overheated, move them to a shaded or air conditioned space, and give them water only if they are alert and not at risk of vomiting. Place cold compresses on areas such as the neck, groin and under the arms and knees. If symptoms don't improve, seek medical attention.
Reach reporting intern Kaylee Tornay at firstname.lastname@example.org