How To Keep Your Family Cool In A Blistering Heat Wave

No A/C? 10 Ways To Keep Your Family Cool In A Blistering Heat Wave

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It’s H-O-T. No matter how slowly I move, I am sweating. We are experiencing a heatwave across the United States from California to New York. This is the “I feel like I can’t breathe” kind of heat. The kind of heat where your car’s AC does not cool fast enough. When going outside is no longer a thing you want to do. This is ass crack sweat kind of heat. I am OVER it.

We are a two-car household but only one of those cars has working AC. We are homeowners but our house does not have central air and the window units are working extra hard right now while it feels like they are on strike because they didn’t sign up for this kind of heat.

We’re lucky compared to some, though. There are plenty of people without air conditioners at all — some who cannot afford them, some who have them but they don’t work properly, or have fans that worked well enough on 80-degree days but can’t handle the higher numbers.

In a study conducted in 2015, it is estimated that 12.5% of Americans do not have air conditioning. 26% of us have window units and 61.6% have central air conditioning. But even those cooling mechanisms can fall short when we’re in this global warming hot shit (literally). 

In some parts of California, folks are seeing temperatures rise higher than they have in centuries — seriously, centuries! In the Pacific Northwest, namely Portland, Oregon, temperatures reached 115 degrees. Oh HELL no. At 115 degrees, I am not going ANYwhere, nope. I am grateful that I do not live in Portland, or that here in Connecticut we’ve not yet reached those crazy ass numbers. But the trusty internet tells me those temps are coming. To me, anything higher than 80 is too much. I am the girl who sits at the beach with the umbrella attached (literally) to her chair.

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If you do live in a place where Mother Nature has kicked the thermostat up to an unreasonable degree, what can you possibly do to keep your family cool? Here’s a list of a few things you can consider during an intense heat wave.

  • Relocate most of your activities to the coolest room in your house, if you can.
  • Keep all of your blinds/shades/curtains closed to keep the sun out and darken the house. 
  • Hop into a quick bath or shower a few times a day to help perk you up a bit — but not a cool one. Neuroscientist Matthew Walker tells NPR that warm baths are actually more effective at cooling you down. “What happens with a [warm] bath … is you actually bring all of the blood to the surface. And your hands and your feet are wonderful radiators of that heat,” he says. “So you are essentially like a snake charmer — you are charming the heat out of the core of your body to the surface of your body.” Thus, your core temperature will be lower with a warm bath than with a cool one.
  • If your kids can walk around the house naked, let them. Hell, if you can too, great — if not, at least let your kid be naked. This is a time to be practical, not modest. If you must be dressed, wear loose, flowy garments in light moisture-wicking fabrics like cotton.
  • Keep a cold washcloth, sock, or stockings nearby — maybe even in the freezer — to use every so often to dab your forehead and even let sit on the back of your neck. For a super-easy cold pack, fill a sock with dry rice or beans and let it sit in the freezer for a while.
  • Drink an abundance of water and eat cold, hydrating foods, like fruits, cold cuts and salads. Let the kids eat frozen pops, chocolate pudding, yogurt and/or Jell-O all day long.
  • Find a fan that sprays water to keep you cool, especially without AC. 
  • Check in on friends, family, and neighbors, those elderly and those who are not to make sure they are healthy and well.
  • Your pets are feeling the heat too! The Humane Society has advice on how to keep them as comfortable as possible.
  • This Twitter thread has some more good heat wave tips.

Growing up, we had central air in our home. I’d wrap up with a blanket and constantly say “I am cold,” like my own kids do now when I blast the AC whenever we are in the car. But man, what I would give to have a central air unit in my home now. Let the kids complain — at least we wouldn’t be sweating our balls off.  

I am grateful that we have window units, but next year, if we can afford it, we may upgrade to a higher quality unit … one that doesn’t go on strike whenever a heat wave hits.