Maintaining Your Cool

By Shawn Dell Joyce

As the mercury rises in Orange County, people from around the world offer low tech ways to stay cool:

Mexicans: Dampen a bed sheet and hang it in the window. The water evaporates in the breeze, cooling the room in the process. Another method is to place frozen two-liter bottles of water in front of a fan for instant a/c.

Egyptians: Again, dampen a bed sheet and use it as a “blanket.” Evaporation does the trick.

Chinese: Keep a bamboo mat between your skin and a hot or hard surface like a car seat or chair. The bamboo allows air to circulate, and keeps bare skin from sticking to hot plastic.

Bahamians: In humid climates people often dress down and get wet. Getting wet reduces your core body temperature by three degrees, and will last up to an hour. If you wear clothes that can get wet as well, the cooling effect will last longer. You don’t have to have a pool; a hose, faucet, or misting bottle will work.

Bedouins: You can actually stay cooler in hot climates by covering your skin. Picture desert dwellers in their turbans and flowing white garments; the white reflects the sun, and the natural, loose fabrics shade the skin where there is no shade. Bedouin cultures often wear two layers in the heat of the day. Skin exposed to direct sun is hotter than skin insulated by clothing. Turbans and bandanas shade the eyes, and soak up sweat from the head; this then evaporates and helps cool you off.

New Yorkers: Apartment dwellers in major cities often move bedding onto their fire escapes to sleep in the cooler night air. Rural counterparts can sleep on screened in porches or outdoors. Another trick: Fill your bathtub with cold water and take periodic dips. If you live on the top floor, turn on the ceiling fan (or attic fan) and open the windows to draw out the hot air. Turn off incandescent lights, which generate 90 percent heat and 10 percent light. Use compact fluorescents or LEDs instead.

Caribbean people: Spicy foods make you perspire more, which cools the body. Spices also help stop foods from spoiling as quickly, and give you an endorphin rush that feels good in any temperature.

Italians: Train grapevines over window trellises to provide shade in summer and let in light in winter. Slightly opening windows on the bottom floor, and fully opening upstairs windows maximizes Mediterranean breezes through your villa.

Southerners: Front porches are part of the cooling system of a southern home. Sitting in a lawn chair or rocker that has slats or openings (for air flow) on a shady porch with some iced tea is a tradition. You hold the glass of iced tea against your neck to cool the blood to your brain, and on your pulse points in your wrists. Blow into the iced tea and cool air will rush around your face and neck. In temperatures over 105 degrees, soak your clothes and sit in the lawn chair with iced tea.

Women: Always carry a folding fan in your purse. Dampen a handkerchief and tuck it into your cleavage. It is very cooling and keeps sweat from running down your chest. Southern women often spritz with rubbing alcohol then stand in front of a fan. Follow that with a sprinkling of baby powder at your pulse points and you’re cool as a cucumber.

Shawn Dell Joyce is the director of the Wallkill River School of Art in Montgomery.




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2 Responses to “Maintaining Your Cool”

  1. LeeAgain Says:

    A cool trick for camping: When the temperatures cool off at night, collapse your tent and raise it again to let the hot air out and draw the cooler air in.

  2. Jeff Says:

    I seem to recall advice from Benjamin Franklin who suggested having two beds, one to sleep in and the other to switch to in the middle of the night when the air is hot but the sheets are cool.

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