AT Tips for Keeping Cool

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Did you know fans can help raise body temperature? Thank you to Ability Tools Program Manager Katherine Crowley for this timely advice and helping us all to stay cool.

Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels.com

Temperatures in California are at an all time high and we’d like to share some tips and assistive technology (AT) that might help get you safely through the recurring heat waves.

Be aware of weather forecasts and approaching temperature changes. Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio for critical updates from the National Weather Service (NWS). Here is the site listing the frequencies for the 35 stations in California.

You should be aware that experiencing heat is not only a matter of high air temperatures, humidity can dramatically impact how your body experiences heat. The heat index is the temperature the body feels when the effects of heat and humidity are combined.

Temperature + Humidity = Heat Index (experienced temperature)

To find out how your current weather falls on the heat index, simply visit the National weather service website and enter your city and state or ZIP code into the “Local forecast” search bar in the upper left-hand corner of the site. You get a variety of information, including your area’s current heat index. The number indicated is the effective temperature a body will experience while being in your area that that time.

Stay indoors.

Do you best to stay inside from the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and limit any other time spent outside.

To be sure that your AC is running as efficiently as possible, resulting in cooler environments, lower strain on the energy grid and lower energy costs, you can:

  • Check AC ducts for proper insulation.
  • Be sure to clean or replace AC filters.
  • Install a smart thermostat, like a Google Nest Thermostat, for features like voice control and precise control of your environment which can enable you to conserve energy, not only saving you money on your energy bill but also lowering strains on the power grid that can cause power outages.
  • Purchase an air/room sensor to easily control your home’s air conditioning. You can set them to turn off all your AC when no one is in the home, only have rooms that have current occupants running AC, and create schedules, all working toward controlling your heat safety and energy consumption.
  • A home generator is a good backup in case of a power outage. 

It is ideal to have air conditioning in your home, but not everyone lives in areas where air conditioning is common or has the finances to afford an AC unit. Or they could simply own an AC unit, but be experiencing a brown out or public safety power shut off (PSPS). Since a few hours of air conditioning can help mediate heat-related illness, a few options can go a long way.

Find a place where you can spend peak heat hours during heat events, and please consider your area’s social distancing regulations and recommendations. You can look into visiting your local;

  • Library
  • Mall
  • Community center
  • Theater
  • The home of a friend or relative who has air conditioning
  • Public cooling center
    • To find a designated public shelterText SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 93301).

If none of the above places are accessible, you can fortify your home against the heat using some of the following tips:

  • When the temperature is 90° or higher, fans alone can’t prevent heat-related illness, in fact, they actually push around hot air and can raise body temperature. So, if using fans, put a dish of ice in front your fans to cool the air being moved around.
  • Be sure to clean or replace fan filters.
  • Hang heat/light blocking curtains and keep them shut.
  • Use heat/light reflecting window film or removable window reflectors.
  • Inch-thick insulation panels with reflective backing are cheap and can be placed in windows to reflect heat and block and non-reflected heat from entering a space, just be sure that they are easily removed, for safety concerns.
  • Purchase personal air conditioners in a small room and keep the family to that cooled room during peak heat hours.
  • If installing window fans or air conditioners, be sure to insulate the points of installation.
  • Check that weather stripping is in good condition to keep hot air out and keep cool air in.
  • Stay on the lowest floor in your home, as hot air rises and cool air sinks.
  • Take a cool bath or short shower to help regulate your body temperature.
  • Cool off using wet washcloths or spray bottles on your wrists and neck (Try out these awesome cooling wristbands or mountable battery operated misting fan!).
  • Purchase a hydropowered sleep systema cooling weighted blanket and a cooling pillow to turn your bed into a cool haven.

Dress with the heat in mind.

If you must go outside, avoid dramatic temperature changes and be sure that you dress accordingly.

Wear sunscreen!

Aside from the immediate painful and medically conscious reasons for avoiding a sunburn, sunburns impact your body’s ability to cool down, as it makes the job of heat dissipation more difficult and can make you dehydrated, so if you are trying to keep cool, stave off sunburns. Try out a sunscreen applicator so you can independent apply your sunscreen whenever you need to!

  • Apply broad spectrum or UVA/UVB protection sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes prior to going out and continue reapplying according to the directions on the package.

Take extra care if you work or play outdoors.

If you must not only go outside, but perform strenuous or extended tasks, due to work or athletic commitments, follow some tips to keep yourself safe during these commitments

Remember, if you stop sweating while exposed to the heat, you could be experiencing heatstroke. Other symptoms include disorientation, rapid heartbeat and dry hot skin. If you or anyone around you experiences these, call 911 and immediately apply icepacks to the groin and armpits.

Be mindful about what you eat and drink.

Sweat is how your body regulates your temperature, but sweating will dehydrate you, so you need to be careful to keep hydrated.

  • Be sure to maintain steady water consumption, even if you don’t feel immediately thirsty. An average person needs to drink about three-quarters of a gallon of fluid daily. If you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated.
    • Especially if playing in the water, it is easy to forget to drink, as as you don’t typically notice that you are thirsty when in such close constant proximity to water, so drink up!
  • Avoid sugary, caffeinated, energy or alcoholic drinks, as they accelerate dehydration.
  • Avoid extra cold drinks, as they can cause uncomfortable stomach cramps.
  • As long as you are eating nutrient dense and high-water content foods, along with drinking a sufficient amount of water, you do not need electrolyte and salt supplements.
  • Eat smaller, more frequent, cool temperature foods, like; popsicles, fruit salads or cold soups like cold soba noodles.
    • Eating in smaller, cooler portions will make food easier to digest and won’t contribute to household heat up when you prepare them.
  • Certain medical conditions and medications may mean you need to drink more water, or conversely, some people are on fluid restrictive diets or have problems with fluid retention, so when modifying your typical fluid intake, always be sure to talk to your healthcare provider first.

Look out for each other.

Being mindful of the safety of others and having them do the same for you could make a big difference in ensuring everyone’s safety. Look out for one another and be vigilant that people are handling the heat well. A help to this end is following the guidance the CDC released to help assess “Warning Signs and Symptoms of Heat-Related Illness”. They are available in English and Spanish and in tipsheet and text-based form.

  • Create a buddy system if you or any loved ones need extra attention. Make it your buddy’s responsibility to check on you and vice versa. Ensure that others in your circle all have a buddy to check in with. People who may need extra attention include:
    • Older adults
    • Small children
    • Pets
    • People who work outdoors
    • Those without air conditioning
    • People living alone
    • Individual with disabilities/medical conditions affected by the heat, such as; Hyperthyroidism, Multiple sclerosis (MS), epilepsy, heart disease, high blood pressure, mental illness, poor blood circulation, obesity, and taking medications that interact with body temperature among many others.
  • Check that your pets have easy access to cool environments and that their water dishes are kept full and cool.
  • Never leave children or pets alone in enclosed vehicles.
  • Plan where you and loved ones can shelter during extreme heat events and support one another in enacting those plans. Check in and make sure everyone knows how to maintain safe temperatures.
  • Plan for PSPS events or brown outs. Know where to go or how to maintain a safe environment in your home.

Ability Tools is California’s AT Act Program. Every state and territory has one. Find your AT Act Program to learn more about assistive technology.