Understanding The Effects Of Heat

David Trammel's picture

Hot weather is only going to get more and more likely, so understanding the effects of heat on your body and things you can do to cope will be important. Here is an article about Phoenix's problem with the growth of heat related deaths.

Phoenix Tries To Reverse Its 'Silent Storm' Of Heat Deaths

also of interest, how do you deal with heat when your employer makes you work in dangerous situations?

As Planet Warms, Advocates Urge U.S. To Set Rules To Protect Workers From Heat

I'm lucky, my employer provides bottles of Gatorade and frozen Popsicle when its hot. Not many are.

I find that the older I get, the harder it is to deal with the heat. This year, even though the summer has not been as hot as other summers, I found my self hiding in the house during the day when ever I could.

I don't have AC of any kind, so I depend of fans to pull cool air into the house at night and for the house insulation to keep it in during the day after the windows are closed. This works up to a point, but if the night time temperatures are in the 70s, it doesn't work so well and the house is warmer. Sleeping is harder too and I usually take a shower before bed and my wet hair helps keep me cool, but sometimes in the middle of the night I have to get a wet washcloth to lay across my chest in the breeze of the fan to keep cool enough to sleep.

When I am outside in the garden, wet cloths, hats, resting in shade is really important and while I always have water with me, I never seem to have enough and I get dehydrated and fatigued as a result. I also find that some salt is very important and I have taken to taking sips of sauerkraut juice to combat the fatigue and dehydration. Years ago in Vegas when I had my first job as a sander at the cabinet shop where my Dad worked, we took salted sunflower or pumpkin seeds munch on during our shift to combat the heat. We went on shift in the afternoon, the hottest part of the day and there was no AC in this shop, just fans. You can't eat too much salt or you will get sick, but just enough and it really helps with your energy levels.

I try to acclimatize myself to summer's heat and not use the car AC because I think it is better in the long run to try and figure out non-technical ways to beat the heat. I park in every shady spot I can find, leave windows open and use the windshield shades to keep the interior somewhat cooler and, of course drink that water.

Maybe we will find we have to shift a lot of activities to the night time to avoid the heat. I wonder what gardening under work lights will be like?

Hi Kay,

I also do the window dance in my house. It's critical to not just close the windows but to use white window shades or white backed drapes or even white towels to cover the window's glass. The white surface reflects the heat back out and can prevent several degrees of heating inside.

Venetian blinds don't work as well because of all the little slats let light and heat peek through. A solid, white surface is what does the trick. Room-darkening white window shades are best. White bath towels work if you're a renter. Put them on spring tension curtain rods covering the window inside the frame and drape the towel so it extends over the frame itself. Leave the towel in place all day, only removing it after the sun goes down.

If you own your property, look into shade from properly chosen trees or add white awnings to exterior windows.

Hope that helps!

Teresa From Hershey

David Trammel's picture

Technically, its not the visible light that heats up your home but the infrared spectrum of light which heats up a room. Glass lets visible light pass back out but traps infrared.

That would mean that any shade or curtains inside the room wouldn't cut back on the amount of heat sunlight would transfer into a living space. It would just trap it between the shade and the window and keep adding heat. You would need outside shutters that would prevent the infrared rays from entering entirely. Not sure if the city building inspectors would approve of some white shutters suddenly covering my windows on the outside of the building.

Or maybe I'll give it a try next Spring. See what happens.

That said I have some cheap Wallie World sleeping bags hung over my windows inside the room as insulation for Summer and Winter. They have a pale blue side I have facing out.

You can definitely feel when the temperature difference between inside and outside happens at the open doors. One monent the air from outside suddenly turns warmer and that's when I shut the doors and windows.

If I'm feeling energetic, I'll follow the sun around the house in the summer, closing shades when the sun is pouring into a window and opening the shade when the sun has moved on. It works.
It also works when sunlight is reflected into a window as in the side of the house that faces the white house next door. Those two windows (roughly north) never receive direct sunlight until very late in the afternoon. Yet, they heat up considerably in the summer from reflected morning sunlight. The shades prevent the problem.
In my experience, white works best but any light color will do. The darker the color, the more heat gain.
I also take advantage of solar gain in the winter by pulling back drapes and shades to let every bit of heat enter the house and as soon as the sun sets, putting ALL the window treatments in place to better insulate that glass covered hole in the wall.

Teresa from Hershey

Thanks Teresa,
All my windows except two east facing ones are shaded in the summer. I have thought on more then one occasion to put some kind of shade or awning on the east side. The trick is to find the right type of shade. One of these east windows is the one we have a fan in to pull air through the house.

For the money, a room-darkening white shade hung on the window frame at the top, spanning from edge to edge, works the best. Lower the shade to just above the fan unit. You'll get air while still blocking some of the sun.

If you can afford it and you can sew, make a Roman shade using 'Warm Windows' insulated, foil-interlined fabric sandwich. This stuff is GREAT. It's also awful to work with. I made our dining room window Roman shade with this stuff. It insulates like a dream and because of the foil interlining (invisible from the street) it works better than any white window shade at repelling heat. It's expensive, sold by the yard. Joann's sells it and it often goes on sale or you can use your discount coupons.

Room-darkening honeycomb shades insulate better than plain window shades but they cost more. The more honeycombs, the more the shade costs but it also insulates better.

Awnings work great in the summer but I wonder about the winter. Supposedly, the lower winter sun still penetrates deep into the house but I just don't see how it could when you're blocking part of the winter. I don't think awnings can be taken up and down easily.
Deciduous trees work like adjustable awnings but you have to be able to plant one where you need it and the tree has to fit into the space available.

Good luck!

Teresa from Hershey

ClareBroommaker's picture

Heat causes me problems like never before, too. (So does cold, but that's another angle.) One thing that seems to help working outside is to drink a very large glass of water before I go out to work. I think I drink adequate water generally, but preloading seems to help me avoid that complete exhaustion that wallops me and makes me need the rest of the day for recovery. Partly, I think this problem handling heat is a part of growing old, especially as my mate who is six years older also experiences it, though not as badly as me.

I would have thought I get more than enough salt, but I think I will try a bit more when working and see if that helps. Thanks for the idea.

I like your idea of drinking a glass of water before going out into the heat. I am going to try that as I think too often I get busy and forget to drink anything.

David Trammel's picture

I was doing a quick check to see what additional minerals you loose beside salt and found that most experts do not recommend taking additional salt when working in hot weather.


"You should not take salt tablets. Too much salt can thicken your blood, not to mention increase your chances of developing clots that can block the flow of blood through your body. Salt tablets can also upset your stomach and ruin your interest in exercise."

"When you exercise for an extended period of time even on the hottest days, your requirement for salt rarely exceeds 3,000 milligrams. The average American takes in between 6,000 and 15,000 milligrams of salt each day, more than twice as much as he or she needs. It`s easy to get that much salt because manufacturers add it to all sorts of foods to preserve them, and Americans like to sprinkle extra salt on food to improve the taste."


A better choice would be a homemade electrolyte drink that you kept in the refrigerator and drank as you felt thirsty. That way you are replenishing other minerals as well. I did a search for a good one, but there are thousands. You'd want to try a few and see which one works best for you.

Also be aware that re-hydrating with juice or milk is better than plain water. Something about the little bit of added protein helps the body absorb the liquid.


Thanks David,
I certainly didn't mean anything like a salt tablet, but I find sauerkraut juice to be quite the electrolyte replacement drink and you don't need much. A mouth full is usually enough for me. You could also thin it out with water or fruit juice if you thought it was too salty. There might be something helpful with the remaining lacto bacillus that made the cabbage into sauerkraut in the first place that helps with hydration as well. At least for me it helps, but I suspect that everyone is different here.

Ecosophia reader shewhoholdstensions posted this a few months back and it's worth saving here:

[shewhoholdstensions says:
July 26, 2019 at 9:35 pm
Beekeeper, Europeans and others suffering in the high temps this summer –]

"Living in a true desert, with the lowest socioeconomic status in our state, I do have a few ideas on keeping cooler, cheaply.

Firstly, know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, a la internet. Function accordingly.

During the daytime, tie something wet around your neck and shoulders, we use cloth napkins while working in the garden. Evaporative cooling really helps at the back of your neck, and cooling happens rapidly between your upper thighs and under your arm pits – larger arteries there. Shake out the wet cloth as needed to re-chill.

Cover windows in the afternoon. We have a brick-faced western wall that houses our living room, so from the spring through fall we hang bamboo shades to stop the sun from hitting the brick. Otherwise, our living room is unbearably hot all night from the solar energy stored in the brick being released hour after hour. Take a look outside and see if there is anything you can do to shade the western side of your dwelling, before the sun hits said dwelling. Even just a white sheet could could greatly increase your comfort.

Keep your winter rice bag, or whatever other bed heating method you use – (I’ve seen walnut shells and other random things sewn into bags to microwave or oven heat for taking into bed, any of these work. I just made mine from rice and flannel, sewn into a channeled bag) – and keep it in the freezer or fridge. At least four hours under chill. I stick them in the freezer after beds are made in the morning for routine sake. You can also fill a hot water bottle with ice and water. If going the hot water bottle method or using a store bought gel-type ice pack, be sure to wrap it in a hand towel. Add to your bed up at the chest while doing your night routine, then move down to your feet when you crawl in. Chills the air under your top sheet and chills the mattress so you can fall asleep.

Spraying down your top sheet with water from a spray bottle and sleeping with a fan blowing on said sheet can help you get to sleep on the hottest nights, we usually use this in combination with the rice bags for all night comfort. Shower or sink bath with cold water before bed for even more comfort. Again with the evaporative cooling.

May all your days be filled with the knowledge that we can adapt to many climates."

Alacrates's picture


lathechuck's picture

We had one of those, and it was discovered by a mouse during the summer, while we were away on vacation. He ate a hole in the cloth and converted a lot of the rice into poop, which he distributed throughout much of the house. (How do I know it was a "he" mouse? After failing to trap him, but losing the bait each time, we dubbed him "SAM" (Smart-A55 Mouse).)

You probably know well to keep your food in pest-proof containers, but don't forget about the things that you don't plan to eat, but which might be regarded as food by a pest.

I use a heated grain bag for my fibromyalgia at night. I find it reduces night pain, helps me sleep, and leads to lower morning pain and stiffness, and less fatigue during the day. Also useful for menstrual cramps, and for warming a cold bed.